Carolina innovates again: phasing out coal by 2020

Today we made the announcement that we will phase out coal at the cogeneration facility by May 1, 2020. I was joined by Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club; Tim Toben who chairs our Energy Task Force; and Stewart Boss, representing the Beyond Coal student effort, for the announcement.

We agreed with the students and the Sierra Club that we should get away from coal, but it took some big thinking to come up with a way that makes financial sense. I was

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glad we got everyone to come together.

Coal Group

The group was all smiles as we announced today that Carolina will phase out coal at the cogeneration facility by May 1, 2020.

We had a particularly interesting challenge on this, because our cogeneration plant has a usable life of 30 to 40 years. So, simply building another plant that burns a different fuel doesn’t make sense. Carolyn Elfland and Ray DuBose

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from Energy Services came up with a great solution, which is to burn biomass in the current boilers. Biomass produces only 8 percent of the greenhouse gases of coal.

Over the

next 10 years, we’ll have to figure out how to make biomass work in the boilers and how to make sure we can get enough of it to run the cogen plant. I know we can do it.

Carolina innovates again.


  1. 1
    Wayne Pein

    Phasing out coal in 10 years is laudable. Now UNC should examine using the land for the proposed Carolina North campus for biomass growth and production instead, which could then be easily railroaded to the cogeneration plant. Becoming an “energy locavore” would be the ultimate expression of greenness.

  2. 2
    Robert Lewis

    As usual, you’re helping. Thanks for all you do.

  3. 3
    sue ingram

    Phasing out coal in ten years time and introducing biomass burning in the current boilers looks like such an excellent solution on the technical as well as sustainable level. Obtaining the right biomass to make the solution as sustainable as you desire seems to me one of the bigger challenges and I shall watch with interest your progress.
    We have a property in Zimbabwe that we hope to be able to live at permanently once the political scenario is more stable. However, no matter what the next political horizon may be, we are very keen to look at being as self sufficient as possible and not have to rely on any political stability for supply of resources. Power is a key element and we have been looking at biodigesters as well as biomass burning using an abundant wood supply that we could harvest sustainably.