Air Awareness Programs

Monday, April 13, 2020 - 3:43pm

NC Air Awareness, a section of the Division of Air Quality that has been around for some time now; our mission has always been to educate and bring awareness to people’s lifestyle and how their behaviors impact air quality, and thus their health. 

Our programs reach far and wide from school classrooms across the state, to drivers education coursework to teachers and environmental educators, and a myriad of public events . These include electric car shows, asthma summits, environmental field days, museums, and more – the list is exhaustive.  

We are proud of our work, and we are excited to continue educating  in this fashion, but things are changing in this world. The technology that surrounds us is changing. The conversations are changing. And in October 2019, big recommendations of change came to North Carolina with the release of the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan.  

But what does that mean? The Clean Energy Plan?  

Essentially it is a comprehensive recommendation for the state on ways to create electricity and use energy sources with fewer emissions, and to specifically cut greenhouse gas emissions for the long-term goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Which would result in cleaner air, a changing cultural landscape, with a variety of new and different career opportunities. 

You see, the Clean Energy Plan calls for 12.5% of N.C.’s energy needs to be renewable in 2021. Currently 26 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have at least 900 clean energy jobs cumulatively. Not to mention 17 of North Carolina’s largest private employers have set renewable energy goals. This list of employers includes entities like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, SAS, Ikea, Google and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.  

This means we have to up our game and look to the future as well and educate about what the future looks like – and that’s exactly what we are doing. The North Carolina Air Awareness team is working to create new, more technologically advanced, education programs that include topics like electric vehicles, battery storage and how these pieces of technology impact the air quality. Although electric transportation does not explain the whole picture. How does one charge a car from the electrical grid and how is that in any way cleaner than using gasoline? What types of energy are available to North Carolinians so that we have reliable and resilient energy (to the stronger storms we are experiencing) available to power not only our homes and businesses, but our transportation systems as well? Still, how much will these new technologies improve the air quality? These are all questions we are investigating and answering with our new education programs.  

N.C. Air Awareness is working to improve public understanding of these new systems and forms of energy generation. We are partnering with Marbles Kid’s Museum on an exhibit that showcases renewable energies, new electrical grid technology and how local natural resources can be better used to create electricity and power our transportation systems. Although initially scheduled on April 4th as part of the NC Science Festival, we have had to postpone indefinitely due to COVID19.  We look forward to being able to present this exhibit when it is safe to do so. 

These “microgrids” that will be set up at Marbles Kids Museum are also available to teacher classrooms across the state, so that as teachers wade through the knowledge of energy and our energy future they have support and can make some of the more difficult components, like wind and solar technology, come to life. Students are able to build and create their own electrical grid system and measure the electricity that they are able to produce from these renewable sources. 

As time changes, technology evolves, and culture shifts the N.C. Air Awareness Team is doing what we can to keep the seemingly invisible shifts in air quality and related technologies, visible.