UNCP cuts ribbon for solar car-charging station


Car Charging StationUNC Pembroke’s first two plug-in electric vehicle charging stations can be used rain or shine, and when the sun is shining, the solar panels pump electricity into the campus grid. 

As the university cut the ribbon on December 11, two cars were charging. UNCP was the first university in North Carolina to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge. 

The solar array above the two charging stations is UNCP’s first renewable energy source. In November, the solar panels produced 207 kWh for a carbon offset of 315 pounds or the equivalent of four trees. Power not needed for charging vehicles supplies power to the university’s electrical grid. 

However, a year ago, UNCP was the only UNC-system school that did not have a sustainability structure in place. A lot has changed since then. 

“Our students came to us and almost demanded a sustainability plan,” said Dr. Richard Cosentino, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration. “The students even proposed a green fee to.” 

Since then, the university has hired an energy manager and a sustainability director, and the future is looking greener, Dr. Cosentino said. “We’ve enjoyed measurably good results, and we expect an even better year next year.” 

The university is car sharing with Zipcars; there’s a green roof on the new Health Sciences (LEED) Building; a biodigester that converts 2,000 pounds of waste food into gray water; a campus garden; several student interns and a green fee to help support sustainability initiatives. 

Chancellor Kyle R. Carter, who last spring signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment during an Earth Day celebration, was pleased with the progress. 

“These solar panels will pay for themselves in a relatively short period of time,” Chancellor Carter said. “This solar array is like our flag. As people come on our campus, they can see our commitment.”  

As Chancellor Carter was predicting good things for UNCP’s sustainability initiative, an all-electric Nissan Leaf, owned by biology professor Deborah Hanmer, and an electric-gasoline Chevy Volt, owned by Duke Energy, were plugged in. 

“I estimate it costs a penny-and-a-half per mile, but when the electricity is free like this, I’m getting really good savings,” Dr. Hanmer said. “It takes about two hours to charge, and I can drive 60 miles and never stop at a gas station, ever.” 

David McNeill, Duke Energy’s District Manager for Community and Government Services, liked the location of the solar panels, which are in front of Lumbee Hall. “It’s great to see it in this location that is so visible,” said McNeill, who is a member of UNCP’s Foundation Board of Directors. “Duke is committed to renewable energy.” 

UNCP’s Sustainability Director, Jay Blauser thanked people and departments across campus for their help in the car-charging project. “Everybody was involved and that’s how sustainability works,” he said. 

UNCP is ready for the next important phase of its sustainability program, Blauser said. “The next phase is when we take advantage of the opportunity to educate our students,” he said. “Students must be involved, and they need to know why this technology is here and how it works.” 

All equipment and labor for the car-charging station were sourced in North Carolina, Blauser said, including installation by M-W Electrical Construction in Red Springs. Clay Scott represented the electrical contractor and said this is not the company’s first such project. 

“We did the work at Sandy Grove Middle School in Hoke County,” Scott said. “It is a net zero building that is likely to get a check back from its electric company.” 

Faculty, staff, students and visitors may charge their electric cars for free. The two-kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system offsets campus energy consumption, making this a carbon net zero application. It is the first of a series of operational moves to position the university to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

For more information about sustainability programs at UNCP, please contact the Office of Sustainability at (910) 521-6509 or email jay.blauser@uncp.edu .