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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted its annual Clean Tech Summit, convening industry, government and research leaders from around the globe for discussions on innovating to a clean economy. 

The seventh annual UNC Clean Tech Summit, co-hosted by UNC Institute for the Environment and the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, took place on Thur. and Fri., Feb. 20-21 at UNC’s Friday Center. Despite winter weather conditions, the event attracted nearly 900 registrants.  

“The UNC Clean Tech Summit is a remarkable event,” says Mike Piehler, director of the UNC Institute for the Environment and professor of marine sciences and environmental sciences and engineering.  “It threads the needle by providing value to private sector, public sector, NGO and student participants.  It is a great exemplar of what the modern university should be doing to prepare its students for their careers. Greg Gangi had a vision, and it is borne out every year in the summit.” 

This year’s theme, “Innovating to a Clean Economy” featured keynote speakers and panelists from an array of specialties. Ryan Decker from Audi of America’s electric vehicle operations discussed the future of electric vehicles in the U.S. and the world. The role of renewable energy and solar panel technology in the clean tech economy was the topic of Jeff Juger’s keynote. Juger is director of business development at Jinko Solar, one of the largest solar module manufacturers in the world. Russell Gold, senior energy reporter for The Wall Street Journal, held a book signing after speaking about his new work Superpower, One Man’s Quest to Transform American Energy. A special plenary session covered the climate considerations for future prosperity and security. 

Participants chose other sessions from seven themed tracks over the two days. Topics such as the Circular Economy, Technology for Regenerative Agriculture, The Rise of Energy Storage, Our Rapidly Evolving Energy Landscape, Transforming our Transportation Systems, Blue Tech and Smart and Resilient Communities gave participants a diverse milieu to follow the latest trends, innovations and challenges in the clean tech sector 

Students had the opportunity to connect with an industry professional for the mentor program to learn about future careers and the clean energy industry. 

The Summit ended early on Thur. as UNC suspended operations of university facilities due to forecasted snow and icy conditions, but resumed Friday at 10:30 with Strata Solar awarding $10,000 to UNC students Olivia Corriere and Zach Walker for first place in the Clean Tech Award Competition. This competition sought out ideas for improving energy efficiencies. (Read more in our forthcoming April blog post on Environmental Spotlight.) 

This year’s second annual career fair hosted 19 companies and organizations from the clean energy and sustainability sector including the U.S. EPA, Strata Solar and Duke Energy. This event was especially useful for students looking for summer internships or new graduates seeking full-time employment. 

“The growth of our career fair this year was significant,” says Greg Gangi, associate director for clean technology and innovation at the Institute. “This is becoming a great way to connect students with jobs and internships. It also helps provide the private sector in our region a really good way to connect to talent.”

To read more stories related to the Summit, visit our Clean Tech Stories blog.

 Story by Hannah Kyung ’20 

Hannah Kyung is an environmental studies major and geographic information sciences minor, class of 2020. She is working at the Institute for the Environment as a work-study student. Hannah’s interests include geospatial connections between people and their environment.

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