FROM THE HILL
away from fossil fuels to clean energy.’
Chancellor Holden Thorp ’ 86
No Coal: University Seeks New Energy Source by 2020
Cogeneration is the simultaneous pro-
duction of steam and electricity. UNC pro-
duces steam and power in a plant on the
western edge of Chapel Hill. The Univer-
sity has burned coal to make power since
the late 1900s. Based on results from a
2008 greenhouse gas inventory, about 58
percent of UNC’s carbon dioxide equiva-
lents came from burning coal.
The cogen plant today is considered
one of the most efficient of its type, with a
70 percent efficiency rating, compared with
other coal-burning plants in the state that
are about 30 percent efficient.
‘We will stop using coal on campus by 2020.” The chancellor’s announcement in early May was bold, considering
questions remaining about supplies of alternative fuels and the cost and practicality of
converting UNC’s coal-dependent cogeneration plant. But the Sierra Club and students
who spurred the University to study a turn
away from fossil fuels were on the sideline
And Carolina was basking in a leadership moment — Bruce Nilles, who oversees the Sierra Club’s national Beyond Coal
campaign, said another 58 campuses that
still burn coal have not taken this step.
“Universities must lead the transition away
from fossil fuels to clean energy,” Chancellor
Holden Thorp ’ 86 said. “Today, Carolina takes
another big step in that direction.”
A student-faculty-staff Energy Task Force
announced by Thorp in late January made
quick work of the recommendation to
commit to being coal-free within a decade.
The University has begun looking into
burning wood pellets or torrefied wood —
a product similar to charcoal — in the
boiler of the cogeneration plant, which
requires 50 percent solids to operate. Testing of wood products is expected to begin
soon. The plant eventually could be re-engineered to burn natural gas. The ultimate fuel source is one of the unknowns.
‘Universities must lead the transition
STEVE EXUM ’ 92
Another is the source of wood products, also known as biomass. Those would
have to come from forests, preferably in
North Carolina, and there is a debate
emerging over controls to ensure that
burning wood doesn’t have adverse consequences for forest resources and wildlife.
While working toward conversion, the
University intends to shift to acquiring as
much of its coal as possible from deep mines
that do not involve surface or mountaintop
mining. Thorp made it clear that this would
be a secondary priority behind the weaning
off of coal. At the same time, UNC will
study the potential to generate energy from
solar thermal and solar photovoltaic systems.
“Carolina’s cogeneration facility is one of
Report: Fraternities Need
the cleanest-burning, most efficient coal
plants in the country and has won national
awards for efficiency from the Environmental
Protection Agency,” said Tim Toben ’ 81,
chair of the task force and chair of the N.C.
Energy Policy Council. “But it still burns
coal, and that must end to avoid contributing
to the worst effects of global climate change.
And unless you set a deadline for ending
coal usage, you’re not going to get to it.”
Still, Nilles said, it’s time for the U.S. to
recognize that energy sources that once
seemed cheap “are in fact coming at a huge
cost.” He cited this year’s West Virginia coal
mine disaster and the BP oil spill affecting
the Gulf Coast.
More Alumni Oversight
UNC should have an alumni asso- ciation for its fraternities, accord- ing to the recommendations of a
consultant who performed a four-month
review of the University’s Greek system.
Jordan Whichard ’ 79 told the Board of
Trustees in late May that the fraternities —
specifically the 23 Interfraternity Council
frats — could benefit from greater involvement by their alumni. He recommended the
alumni group be led by a full-time director,
and he said discussions about raising the
funds to pay the director already have started.
The review, initiated by trustees’ Chair
Robert Winston ’ 84, followed a rocky fall
2009 semester in which the president of
Delta Kappa Epsilon was killed by police
officers in an incident that followed a night
of partying at DKE. The frat received
heavy sanctions for alcohol policy violations. In separate incidents, four students
with fraternity or sorority ties were
arrested on drug charges.
IFC is one of four separate fraternity
and sorority governing organizations at
Carolina. Most IFC frats own their own
houses, all on private property. They
became the focus of Whichard’s review.
Whichard also said the University
should consider restructuring the judicial
process for Greek rules violations — specifically establishing a new process involving
the IFC Judicial Board, the new alumni
association and the assistant dean of students
for judicial programs. This would remove
the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life
from the judicial process and free it to be a
Greek resource for “best practices” in areas
such as academics and their involvement in
campus and community life.
The report recommends that the IFC
function as an independent body subject to
oversight by the alumni association. The
IFC would appoint or elect the judicial
board and, with the alumni association,
develop a judicial process and regulations
similar to the UNC Honor Council system. Whichard, who in May became chair
of the GAA Board of Directors, said 18 of
the 23 IFC fraternities have said they agree
with the report’s recommendations.