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A Carbon-Free Boone?

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: May. 29 | Modified: May. 29
A Carbon-Free Boone?

The town of Boone might be taking “going green” to a whole new level, forever changing the community’s carbon footprint in the High Country.

Long-term sustainability plans could have the town relying on carbon-free energies and severing a dependency on fossil fuels in powering the town.

Harvard Ayers, who founded the environmental awareness and advocacy group, Appalachian Voices, is launching a new nonprofit initiative with these goals in mind.

With Carbon-Free Boone, Ayers has developed some revolutionary but not previously unseen methods that could make the town a pioneer in sustainability at the municipal level.

By studying what has already been accomplished in the college town of Palo Alto, Calif., Ayers believes Boone could, in fact, power its electrical demands through an elaborate orchestra of solar panels.

Palo Alto, which is home to Stanford University, has already contracted with three nearby solar farms to provide the fossil-free energy.

For this to happen in Boone, Ayers said key relationships must be formed between the town, Appalachian State University and New River Light and Power.

“What we want them to do is switch fuels and hire some solar contractors to do what Palo Alto did when the fossil fuel contracts finish,” Ayers said.

Unlike the California town Ayers has studied, Boone has a unique set of challenges, particularly terrain and elevation, to work around.

Ayers admitted a solar farm that could support the town’s energy needs would have to be constructed “off the mountain” and then relayed to the town.

In supporting the feasibility of this project, Ayers referenced the solar farm in southern Catawba County that feeds the Google facility in the region.

“That’s the sort of thing that I would want NRLP to do,” Ayers said.

While solar energy would cut off a few toes on the town’s overall carbon footprint, Ayers believes it will also take a combination of alternative energies to kick the fossil fuel addiction once and for all.

“ASU holds a key to a lot of this,” Ayers said. “The town doesn’t have the authority to say, ‘Hey, let’s start using solar.’”

In trying to gain support for his ideas, Ayers approached the Boone Town Council last week to present his plan for a carbon-free Boone.

During his speech to council members, Ayers referenced what Stanford University has done in divesting in all fossil fuel producing and burning companies, such as Exxon, BP and Pacific Gas and Electric.

“ASU, likewise, has investments in companies, like Exxon and Duke Energy, who intend to produce or burn fossil fuel till stopped by government law, this law being a certain outcome of this crisis if the Earth is to survive,” he said.

Like Palo Alto, Boone, too, has its own utility in NRLP that provides electricity.

ASU owns NRLP and, ergo, the university has the potential to make a major contribution to Boone’s ability to do its contribution in the battle against climate change, Ayers said.

After presenting his findings to the town, Ayers said he was met with support and invited to participate in a sustainability taskforce spearheaded by councilman Quint David.

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