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Alternative fuels featured at CCCC-Chatham Odyssey

Alternative fuels featured at CCCC-Chatham Odyssey

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Central Carolina Community College's Chatham County Campus, in Pittsboro, and the Triangle Clean Cities ... (more)

Alternative fuels featured at CCCC-Chatham Odyssey

click to enlarge ⊗

Central Carolina Community College's Chatham County Campus, in Pittsboro, and the Triangle Clean Cities ... (more)

Alternative fuels featured at CCCC-Chatham Odyssey

click to enlarge ⊗

Visitors look over vehicles powered by alternative fuels at the National Alternative Fuel Vehicle ... (more)

Alternative fuels featured at CCCC-Chatham Odyssey

click to enlarge ⊗

Central Carolina Community College's Chatham County Campus, in Pittsboro, and the Triangle Clean Cities ... (more)

10.30.2012College & CommunitySpecial Events

PITTSBORO - The future became the present as Central Carolina Community College and the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition celebrated the National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day Odyssey Oct. 18 at the college's Chatham County Campus.

At the event, representatives of businesses, education, and government spoke about the current and future use of alternative fuels in the Triangle area and the benefits they offer. Several alternative fuel vehicles were on display and a ribbon cutting was held for the college's two electric vehicle charging stations. Visitors also toured the college's various sustainability programs.

Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) are designed to run on fuels other than gasoline: electricity, clean burning gaseous fuels such as propane and compressed natural gas, or biofuels made from renewable resources. Some are hybrid vehicles, able to switch between gasoline and another fuel as needed.

"We have opportunities here and now for people to save a lot of money on vehicle fuel by using these alternatives," said David Tucker, the coalition's Clean Cities specialist. "We can improve the air quality for all of us. To do both at the same time is a great win-win."

He added that alternative fuels also lessen the nation's dependence on petroleum imports, a point of national security.

"This is exciting; this is the future," said Jennifer Kidwell, of Snow Camp, about what people were learning at the event. She is taking classes in green construction and sustainable agriculture at the college. "Things are happening across the board in sustainability - in vehicles, in growing things, in building, and other areas - that's why I'm having a hard time making up my mind about a major."

Speakers for the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day were Jeff Andre, partner and operations lead of BuildSense Inc. architecture and construction firm; Rachel Burton, director of Piedmont Biofuels Research and Analytics Department; Michael Waters, Duke Energy's lead engineer for electric transportation and grid modernization; and Lacey Jane Wolfe, senior planner for energy and the environment for the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition of the Triangle J Council of Governments.

Wolfe said there are about 100 coalitions across the nation partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce petroleum consumption. She noted that, nationwide, there are about 775,000 alternative fuel vehicles in use and 6,600 fueling stations.

A $12 million, four-year grant from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds the coalition's Carolina Blue Skies Initiative. That is helping businesses and cities to pay for the conversion of their vehicle fleets to alternative fuels.

BuildSense is among the businesses assisted. It converted its fleet to CNG and saves more than $1,000 per month in costs over the diesel fuel previously used. The company has a refueling station on-site. Andre said that CNG is a safer fuel than gasoline because it is lighter than air and hard to ignite.

The idea of starting Piedmont Biofuels grew out of the founders' experiences with CCCC's biofuels program, Burton said. Piedmont was the first biofuels production company in North Carolina. It now produces about one million gallons of biofuels each year from used oils collected from recycling facilities, restaurants and industries. Seven refueling locations serve customers in central and eastern North Carolina.

Waters said it is critical that the nation diversify the fuels it uses in transportation.

"Every auto maker is now in this field," he told the gathering, adding that North Carolina is a leader at providing the infrastructure necessary for alternative fuel vehicles to be able to refuel.

Visitors gathered behind the campus's Sustainable Technology Center for the ribbon cutting for the campus's two electric vehicle charging stations, a collaboration with Duke Energy. Waters thanked CCCC for its participation in the project, noting that it helps the company understand the impact of electric-powered vehicles on the company's distribution grid.

County Commissioner Sally Kost was among those assisting CCCC Chatham Provost Karen Allen with the ribbon cutting.

"Chatham County is very environmentally conscious," Kost said. "CCCC is a leader in sustainability - it's a perfect fit. The future is going to be less dependence on fossil fuels, but, as we become more fuel efficient, the General Assembly needs to address revenues for roads [since the funding is based primarily on the gasoline tax]."

Others taking part in the ribbon cutting were Waters, CCCC trustee Doug Wilkinson Jr., CCCC President Dr. Bud Marchant, Pittsboro City commissioners Beth Turner and Bett Wilson Foley, and CCCC Sustainability Coordinator Laura Lauffer.

Several alternative fuel vehicles were on display at the event: CCCC's biofuels-powered van, BuildSense Inc.'s bi-fuel gas-CNG Ford Escape, Advanced Energy Corp.'s all-electric Nissan Leaf, and plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid Chevy Volts from Duke Energy and Wilkinson Cadillac-Chevrolet-Buick-GMC.

"Alternative fuel vehicles are important to the future," said Wilkinson, who has been in the car business for 44 years. "As technology improves, they'll get better and better."

Among the visitors were Edd Hauser, director, and Sherry Elmes, associate director, of the UNC-Charlotte Center for Transportation Policy Studies.

"You can't stress enough how important sustainable transportation is and the use of alternative fuels," Elmes said. "It is important to health and to the environment. We have to have a paradigm shift and get accustomed to doing things differently."

As the event wrapped up, Tucker described it as "very successful."

"It was exciting to see all these people turn out from the local community and college," he said. "The speakers panel and tour of the sustainability programs were great. With CCCC's biofuels program, the college has already taken a leadership position. We hope it will be the first of many such events with our new friends at the college."

The National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day Odyssey at CCCC was one of many held on Oct. 18 around the nation to promote the use of AFVs. National coordination of the day was by the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium at West Virginia University in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

For information about sustainability programs at Central Carolina Community College, visit its Web site,