UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment recently was awarded $100,000 from the Duke Energy Foundation to continue research on the drought vulnerability of the state’s power generation capabilities and explore the diversification of electric power systems and alternative energy sources. The research will continue to create novel and sustainable ways to use energy and water in North Carolina.
“The world’s energy demands are growing rapidly,” Greg Characklis, director of IE’s Center for Watershed Science and Management and professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said. “Our charge is to figure out how to develop and use energy in more sustainable ways—taking into account the economic, environmental and social considerations. This funding gives us an opportunity to do research and outreach that is focused on finding solutions.”
“Energy plays an important role in economic development, natural resource management and public health,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “The UNC Institute for the Environment’s research will inform the energy sector about sustainable generation resources that are also financially viable for customers.”
The grant not only funds faculty and student research, but also focuses on communication and outreach that inform students and the public on energy-related issues. Funding from this grant will enable a speaker series and “Science Cafes” that cover a multitude of topics ranging from renewable energy options to the financial risks of drought. These events attract audiences from across North Carolina including individuals from academia, industry, government and non-governmental organizations, and beyond.
“We have a rapidly growing population and expanding economy in North Carolina that will continue to demand new sources of energy as well as a high-level of environmental quality,” Characklis said. “We need interdisciplinary solutions to meet these challenges, as well as the ability to communicate these solutions to the public. These funds will provide us with the support to make a real impact on North Carolina’s sustainable energy future.”
The grant also provides funding for new courses to train environmental studies students in energy and environmental planning.