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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The chancellor of the announced Tuesday that the school will end its use of coal-generated power in the next decade.

Chancellor Holden Thorp made the announcement after recommendations he received last week from a task force studying energy issues.

The task force was formed in January to help the university create a plan to reduce its carbon footprint. Among the group’s recommendations is the elimination of the use of coal by May 2020.

For more than a century, coal has been used at UNC’s power plants. In February, students protested the school’s coal-based power plant despite the cogeneration facility being recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its performance.

"We are in an unusual position because our cogeneration plant has a useful life of another 30 to 40 years," he said. "It’s not going to be easy to make this transition. We have challenges in making sure biomass will work in our existing boilers and challenges on the supply side as well. But we are confident we can achieve our goal in 10 years."

As part of its plan to end coal use, the cogeneration facility will test co-firing coal with biomass in the form of dried wood pellets later this spring and torrefied wood – a product similar to charcoal – this fall or winter. The university hopes to replace 20 percent of its coal with biomass no later than 2015