2017 Appalachian Energy Summit provides students opportunities to network, exchange ideas and promote their work

The sixth Appalachian Energy Summit will take place July 10-12 at Appalachian State University, focusing on a theme called “Perspectives: Policy & Practice.” More than 500 people are expected to participate – including 100 select students from UNC system institutions and other state institutions and private colleges.

Students will have numerous opportunities to present their work, exchange ideas and network with potential employers. More than 30 will present their energy-related ideas on posters as part of the summit's poster competition, having been chosen by summit organizers. Winners of the competition will receive a nominal cash prize.

Additionally, students will compete for the chance to serve as a highlight speaker on policy, sustainability or implementation ideas. The audience consists of all the summit’s attendees, affording students high visibility with potential employers and educators.

As the initiator and host of the summit, Appalachian has assumed a leadership role in reducing the UNC system’s energy costs. Since 2012, its inaugural year, the summit has provided a platform through which UNC campuses together with industry partners have avoided more than $499 million dollars in utility costs, representing almost 9 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.

Student attendees are encouraged to build on this progress by implementing clean energy initiatives on their respective campuses.

Here is a sampling of the student research to be presented:  

Lucy Barron

Lucy Baron, a 2017 graduate of Appalachian State University, will present a poster on a water purification system at the 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit. Photo by Elliot Baron

Lucy Baron ’17

Appalachian State University

A water purification system can do more than purify water. It can also serve as a solar-powered cooking device, benefitting rural communities in developing countries. 

Lucy Baron, a 2017 graduate of Appalachian from Key West, Florida, is developing a water purification system, called WaterPURE (short for Water Purification Under Radiant Environments), which has the potential to curtail the spread of disease in developing countries caused by unsafe drinking water. Furthermore, it could help make the cooking process healthier for humans and less destructive to the environment.

“In rural communities of developing countries, clean water is not readily accessible,” she said. “Also, food is traditionally cooked indoors using biomass; this causes deforestation surrounding the communities, and it produces smoke that especially affects the health of women and children.”

WaterPURE uses concentrated solar technology and evacuated tubes – designed to absorb sunlight and convert it into usable heat – to pasteurize contaminated water sustainably and to enable cooking that reduces indoor smoke and resource depletion. Baron hopes WaterPURE will interest summit attendees who work in developing countries.

The summit will enable Baron to network and exchange ideas with environmentalists. She describes some of these people as “my personal heroes in the renewable energy industry.” She also hopes to collaborate with summit attendees on ways to combat climate change and to expand her knowledge of the subject.

Baron earned a bachelor’s degree in appropriate technology from Appalachian with a minor in physics. She will study sustainable engineering as a graduate student at Villanova University beginning this fall, focusing her work on alternative and renewable energy. Her goal is to work for an engineering firm that makes the kind of sustainable technology that reduces anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Ben Hauk

Benjamin Hauck, a German exchange student at UNC Charlotte, will present a student poster on ways to ensure benefits of PV systems during the 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit.

Benjamin Hauck

UNC Charlotte

Thanks to decreasing prices and attractive incentives, more solar panels are appearing on the roofs of residential buildings everywhere. Benjamin Hauck, a German exchange student at UNC Charlotte, said adding battery storage to photovoltaic (PV) systems may increase economic benefits to homeowners and improve the power autonomy of residential buildings. This means the building needs to import less energy and is therefore less reliant on electrical grids. 

Hauck’s work suggests that achieving these goals depends on determining the right size of the PV system. The PV system consists of solar arrays, a battery, an inverter and further electrical components, which are installed in a residential building.

“Appropriate component sizes are critical for the performance of PV-battery storage systems,” Hauck said. “I am working on an optimal sizing of the system, which means I am trying to maximize the self-sufficiency of the system as well as minimizing the annualized costs.”

Solar Energy 101

A PV system without a battery can supply itself only during the day when the sun is shining. However, during nights or cloudy days when there is no or little solar power available, PV systems without a battery rely on the public grid to cover their electrical energy needs.

If battery storage is added to a PV system, the battery can store solar energy when there is too much solar power available, as is often the case at noon. The stored energy can supply the electrical consumers in the building if the solar power can no longer meet the building’s energy demands.

Adding a battery storage means there is less energy exchanged with the electrical grid. Therefore, the power autonomy of the residential building increases.

A timely project

Hauck’s work would apply to several scenarios, including the developing Charlotte market. It is timely, he said, because solar energy is playing an increasingly important role in the push for renewable energies related to electrical power and heat production.

As for his focus on PV-battery systems in residential buildings, “it makes sense to produce the energy directly where it is needed,” he said. “Furthermore, rooftop areas don’t cost anything, since they are part of the residential buildings and there is no further land-use required. I hope we will see a price decrease for lithium batteries soon. That would bring the technology to mass market.”

Hauck is from Winnenden, Germany, which is near Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg state. He is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. His work at UNC Charlotte entails research on renewable energy as part of an internship at the school’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC). He hopes to find work as a development engineer, the first step in becoming a team or project leader.

Hauck views the 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit as a highly educational international exchange of views on changes affecting energy production and consumption.

“As a German student, I might have a different view of the future of energy than American students have,” he said. “I think this summit is a great opportunity for us to learn from each other. Furthermore, I hope that I can expand my knowledge in the field of renewable energies by participating in the summit.”

Ismail Megri

Northwest Guilford High School
N.C. A&T University

Ismail Megri, a rising junior at Northwest Guilford High School in Greensboro, has begun taking 3D printing and design courses at North Carolina A&T University. He comes to the 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit with a bold prediction about housing construction.

“In the future, manufacturing will be based completely on 3D printing because it decreases labor costs, speeds the process of construction and reduces the number of accidents at a work site,” he said. “The government is spending a lot for research, education and outreach.”  

With respect to housing, 3D printing creates the major parts that go into assembling a house, with blueprints showing all the 3D-printed parts and how to assemble them.

Megri, 15, is so confident about 3D printing’s future in housing construction he has begun studying ways of making 3D-printed housing both sustainable and affordable.

“Sustainable housing is environmentally friendly housing, in terms of everything from construction to the use of the building,” he said. “The house needs to be air-tight and highly efficient. It must use renewable energy. My poster will illuminate designing walls in ways that make them mechanically strong and thermally efficient. It will also feature ideas about stress analysis and such energy-related problems as heat transfer, moisture and condensation.”

Down the line, Megri said, he and others in the scientific community must develop ways to check 3D-printed housing for condensation, mold and other aspects of “sick-building syndrome” that can endanger the health of humans. In addition, building, electrical, mechanical and fire codes must change to make 3D-printed housing more feasible.

For now, though, he is looking forward to attending his first summit.

The summit “is a very interesting event where I can learn about energy and building,” he said. “It’s also an environment where I can learn from and exchange ideas with more knowledgeable people.”

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