DPS Works to Save North Carolina’s Natural Resources

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - 8:50am

Always searching for opportunities to conserve its financial and natural resources, Department of Public Safety leaders embraced Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80 as a way to do just that. The order, signed Oct. 29 2018, calls for the state to transition to a clean energy economy, establishes the N.C. Climate Change Interagency Council and strives to accomplish the following goals by 2025:

  • Reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels.
  • Increase the number of registered zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, to at least 80,000.
  • Reduce energy consumption per square foot in state-owned building by at least 40% from fiscal year 2002-03 levels.

Supporting National Clean Energy Week Sept 23-27, the council (made up of members of each cabinet agency) came together to present to Gov. Cooper their initial findings and progress made toward clean energy and climate change. The Department of Public Safety, along with other council members, has diligently worked to begin meeting the goals set forth by the Governor. Let’s check in on where DPS is a year into carrying out Executive Order 80.

New ZEVs on the Road

The department is purchasing 10 ZEVs, which offer a high fuel economy and, as their name suggests, zero emissions. Since there are fewer moving parts compared to vehicles with gasoline engines, maintenance costs are also significantly reduced. 

The cars will be issued to Juvenile Justice, Community Corrections and Prisons, and DPS officials continue to identify instances where ZEVs could be utilized. Before a large fleet of ZEVs is implemented, you must have a place to charge them, and the department is aggressively seeking ways to add charging stations to its facilities.

LED Lighting

DPS is updating lighting at all facilities with LED lights. LED lights have a longer lifespan of up to 100,000 hours or more, consume less energy, are brighter and are free of the environmental issues that are common with fluorescent or mercury vapor lights. Most importantly for the correctional facilities, LED lights are more effective for security purposes.

Installation of the lights began in 2017. Beginning fiscal year 2019-20, an estimated 5 million kilowatt-hours will be saved annually by the LED lights that equals to $320,000 in savings. Savings will continue to grow as additional sites are retrofitted with LED fixtures. New lights are currently being added to:

  • State Highway Patrol Elizabethtown garage
  • State Highway Patrol Headquarters cafeteria
  • Juvenile Justice Alexander and Pitt Juvenile Detention Center facilities

Natural and Working Lands

Prisons operates a 7,000-acre farm at Caledonia Correctional Institution in Halifax. Crops (corn, collard greens, sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers and melons) from the farm are used to help feed the offender population. 

Farmers use environmentally friendly farming techniques to help reduce the department’s carbon footprint. A no-till farming approach is utilized and results in less soil erosion and compaction, saved time, reduced soil moisture loss and healthier soil. Farmers do not till the soil before planting crops, therefore maintenance and fuel costs for equipment are also lower. Cover crop farming entails planting crops during the off-season and are typically a grass or other green plant. It helps manage soil erosion and fertility, water runoff, weeds and pests. Using both practices helps create a climate-resilient farm for North Carolina.

The department manages 36,000 acres and is looking into ways to utilize the lands to help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. An entire mapping project was recently completed by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to view opportunities for plant and animal conservation and growth. The department is reviewing the information for options to utilize the land.

Other Plans in the Works

A utility management dashboard will launch in the next month. The dashboard tool shows facility managers real-time energy usage through charts, graphs and tables, so one can easily compare types of energy usage and identify trends. This will be a huge benefit to help identify areas where energy resources can be further conserved.

Department officials are also in preliminary discussions about microgrid developments of land for wind and solar energy development.

The department has made amazing strides in the year since the Climate Change Interagency Council was established. DPS will continue to lead the way as North Carolina transitions to a clean energy economy. 

Dabney Weems