5 Energy Efficient Things on Campus You Might Have Missed

Everyone has had that moment on campus where they notice something new and wonder, “Has that always been here?” Or maybe you even walk by these things every day and have never stopped to think twice about them.

UNC began looking towards sustainability initiatives in 1999. Since then, the university has undergone many projects to make the campus more energy efficient. A student fee to support renewable energy projects was added in 2004, with a large backing from students.

“Students pay a $4 fee called the green fee as part of their tuition,” said Charlie Egan. Egan is co-chair of UNC’s Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee, RESPC. RESPC uses this money to fund different renewable energy projects around campus.

“We have a bunch of projects happening in parallel,” Egan said. “At any point in time we probably have between five and ten projects going on.”

Starting in Here are five things from your daily walk to class that were funded by RESPC.

Solar Umbrellas


These umbrellas are more than just a good way to avoid the sun. They have power outlets located at their base if you ever need to charge something.  The solar panels on top provide the electricity that you can use to power your phone.

The new solar panels being added to the Edible Campus will be even more powerful. The Edible Campus is a landscaping project at UNC that will grow fresh food at different campus locations.

The panels will be located in the garden at Davis library. They will have enough power to charge your laptop. Meanwhile, you can sit and enjoy a snack from the garden.


Solar Panel Trashcans


These trash cans and recycling bins also have solar panels on top. The solar panels provide the energy needed to send real-time data for when they need to be be emptied.

Egan said that they also compact the trash.

“Both these processes save energy from the collection process because the trash will need to be collected less frequently.”


Morrison Solar Thermal Collectors


The solar thermal panels on top of Morrison Residence Hall were added when Morrison was renovated in 2005. The panels absorb solar radiation and use it to heat the water in the building.

This was the first project ever funded by RESPC.


Staircase at the Bell Tower Parking Deck


The solar panels on top of the parking lot  provide the electricity needed to power the lights in the staircase at night.

The parking deck is also lit by LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs are more energy-efficient and are longer lasting than standard florescent bulbs.


P2P Express


If you have walked around Chapel Hill at night, chances are you have seen the P2P Express. The P2P is UNC’s free night bus that operates between Franklin Street and the residence halls between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m.

What you might not have known is that RESPC funded the switch to biofuels in 2005. Biofuels are an alternative form of energy that are made from organic materials such as animal waste or plants.

Using biofuels can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.


More to Come 

Next time you’re walking through campus, pause to look at all the things RESPC is doing to incorporate renewable energy. RESPC is helping to make UNC a smarter, more energy-efficient university.