University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Environmental Sustainability Report



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy honored the university’s cogeneration plant with an Energy Star Combined Heat and Power Award in March 2000. 

Simultaneous generation of steam and electricity is far more efficient than producing each product separately. The combined approach saves money, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and produces less air pollution. 

Built in 1992, the university’s cogeneration facility is one of the cleanest coal-burning operations in the country. It relies on an advanced technology, called circulating fluidized bed, that prevents emissions from fuel components often allowed up the stack at other coal-fired generators. Twice as much energy is produced per pound of coal than at the average U.S. power plant. Forty miles of piping distributes steam to the campus and UNC Hospitals. The steam is used for heating, hot water, sterilization, humidification, cooking and cleaning. Another 10 miles of piping distributes chilled water for cooling, a much quieter system than results from individual compressors or window air conditioning units. The combined heating and cooling system serves some 200 campus buildings, containing roughly 13 million square feet of conditioned space. The facility also generates about one-third of the university’s electricity, some 28 megawatts, for less than a quarter of the price paid to purchase electricity from Duke Power. Operating the cogeneration facility instead of purchasing outside power saves the university several million dollars annually.

The campus energy manager has also identified some $3 million in short-term energy efficiency investments that would be cost effective for the university. Many of these are in lighting and energy efficient motors. In spring 2001 the university was able to access state funding for a lighting retrofit in the Hanes Art Center that resulted in higher quality lighting, lower costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Many more such projects would be undertaken if the state legislature approved access to financing and a means to retain at least a portion of the reduced operating costs. The heating, ventilating and air conditioning costs alone at Carolina amount to $25 million annually. Efficiency investments have the potential to reduce those operating costs in every subsequent fiscal year. 

Partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Building program is perceived as a means of increasing campus commitment to energy efficiency while obtaining free technical assistance and publicity. It is hoped that training programs offered through the partnership will raise awareness and interest in campus efficiency investments. Drawing on EPA’s knowledge base will also make it easier to benchmark current practices and develop indicators of progress. 

Contact: Ralph Taylor

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