Zero Energy

Catawba College Carbon Neutral Campus

Catawba CollegeSalisbury, North Carolina

In April 2023, Catawba College announced it had achieved carbon neutrality, becoming the first college in the Southeast to reach this milestone. This impressive achievement was accomplished through a combination of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and purchasing carbon emission offsets for those that have not yet been eliminated. The offsets were purchased from a solar farm that generates zero-carbon electricity by capturing and destroying methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from a landfill. However, Catawba's ultimate goal is to become a zero-carbon campus, eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions and making the purchase of offsets unnecessary.

The journey to a zero-carbon campus requires a roadmap, and Catawba College is partnering with CMTA to create that guide. CMTA is helping Catawba strategize reduction methods for their remaining emissions, which are mostly the result of burning fossil fuels and purchased electricity. These emission reduction strategies include:

  • Reducing load through energy efficiency measures such as installing LED lights, reducing leaks, and upgrading building insulation, as well as installing sensors and controls such as smart thermostats and occupancy-sensing light switches.
  • Installing energy-efficient HVAC equipment.
  • Electrifying buildings by replacing natural gas with electricity for hot water, clothes dryers, and heating.
  • Expanding on-campus solar generation through additional solar arrays.
  • Electrifying transportation by replacing existing gas and diesel vehicles with electric vehicles (EV) and providing EV charging stations on campus.
  • Purchasing offsite solar through Duke Energy. Catawba can purchase electricity generated by solar farms connected to the utility grid, replacing electricity generated by a combination of coal, natural gas, and nuclear.
  • Benefitting from Duke Energy’s commitment to reducing its reliance on coal to generate electricity and increasing solar generation, leading to a cleaner grid. This transition will decrease carbon emissions associated with Catawba’s purchased electricity and reduce the need for special purchases over time.

The Catawba College/CMTA roadmap also takes into account the financial implications of these sustainability methods. Catawba aims to be a catalyst for their region and beyond by demonstrating how carbon reduction can be achieved in a practical and fiscally responsible manner. A prime example of this is seen in their collaboration with CMTA to install a geothermal HVAC system for Corriher Linn Library, eliminating the existing natural gas heating system. A life cycle cost analysis revealed that despite higher installation costs, geothermal systems prove to be more cost-effective in the long run, especially when factoring in available utility rebates and federal incentives.

Catawba College is leading the charge towards a zero-carbon future, proving that environmental responsibility can go hand in hand with financial responsibility.