AEC Internal Grants Announced

The Appalachian Energy Center recently announced six internal awards in our 2018 funding cycle.  We are excited to support the important and diverse projects underway on our campus!  The following projects in our broad energy research, education and outreach focus areas received small grants:

  • Evaluation of Soiling Loss for Solar Photovoltaic Systems in North Carolina
    Jaewon Oh, Ph.D., Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
    Soiling (particulates settled on PV panels) reportedly causes as much as 7% loss in energy yield annually in the US.  However, only one soiling loss data collection site exists in North Carolina.  This project will provide additional data by placing a second monitoring site in the state.  Lost efficiency due to soiling is significant, especially for utility-scale systems, and these data will be useful to system owners, PV operations and maintenance (O&M) companies, PV engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies, PV system designers, and researchers in order for them to assess the PV system performance correctly.
  • Solar Lab Repairs - Pyrheliometer Recommissioning
    Brian Raichle, Sustainable Technology & the Built Environment
    This project will repair and recommission the State Farm Solar Lab pyrheliometer which is currently offline. Radiation data collected by the instrument is important for analyzing ongoing self-consumption data, as well as for analyzing future generation experiments undertaken at the solar lab. Further, lab data will be made available to other researchers at Appalachian and beyond. Components of irradiance is not a commonly available data set, so access to this data for Boone is unique. Researchers at Appalachian State will benefit from having access to a distinctive solar resource data set and student research opportunities will be enhanced. Characterizing and reporting the efficacy of renewable energy conversion systems, extrapolated to conditions across the State, may result in increased adoption. Addressing intermittency of the solar resource is critical to allowing high penetration of renewables on the grid.
  • Energizing Literacy for Adults about Electricity Generation: Improving Basic Literacy regarding Electricity Generation with YouTube “Energy Primer” Video Series Aimed at College Students and Adults
    Carla Ramsdell, Department of Physics and Astronomy
    It is clear that we will need to transform our energy infrastructure to achieve carbon dioxide reductions necessary to reach the IPCC recommended targets in the near future. The electricity generation sector is a significant component in this transformation. There are many visionaries who have charted a path to a renewable electricity future that helps to meet these targets and show that this goal is not technologically limited. There is, however, a significant limitation in the will of people to move in this direction. Part of this is due to a lack of literacy related to the science of electricity generation. People cannot engage in the solution if they lack the basic understanding of the available technologies. YouTube has an increasing following and provides opportunities to reach many people with simple, appealing, educational material to help improve literacy of the general adult public regarding electricity generation. Many of the existing videos are either too elementary with animations that would not be appealing for an adult audience or very technical without the necessary appeal to attract viewers. While there are problems with the content of many of these videos, the amount of views for each of these videos shows that this is clearly an area of interest. To fill this gap in educational material, this proposal is for the development, filming, editing and production of two short videos that will serve as the starting point to a potential educational series to improve literacy about electricity generation.
  • Toward Commercialization – From the Laboratory to Industry: Nano-Reactor Synthesis of Biodiesel Fuel
    Dr. Nicholas N. Shaw Ph.D., Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
    Biodiesel is an alternative fuel that contains approximately 90% of the energy content of fossil derived diesel and is a promising long-term replacement to petroleum‐based diesel fuels. With all the advantages biodiesel affords, why doesn’t biodiesel play a larger role in the energy landscape moving forward? The challenges facing the contributions of biodiesel to total energy production are numerous and impacted by feedstock selection, the transesterification method used, and subsequent biodiesel purification, of which the most important challenge arises from the transesterification method used. The Shaw Research Group has recently developed a novel procedure for the synthesis biodiesel. Currently, efforts of numerous undergraduate research assistants in the Shaw Research Group are focused on conducting pilot feasibility studies for commercial scale biodiesel.  This proposal will help move research toward commercialization.
  • Mobile Microhydro
    Brent Summerville, Sustainable Technology & the Built Environment (STBE)
    mobil microhydroThe goal of this project is to build a trailer-mounted, complete microhydro system that the STBE program can deploy to Western North Carolina sites that have a creek and get the system running for educational and demonstration purposes. This type of on-site, hands-on education will help demonstrate the technology and highlight the steps of microhydro design and installation. In addition to its educational purposes, the trailer will generate on-site power for events, stages, sound systems, lights, phone charging, etc. This clean energy may be positioned in a low, shady area, where wind and solar may not be as effective and will serve as an additional outreach and education tool potentially leading to broader understanding and adoption of microhydro technology.
  • Proposal to Add a Freezer Unit to the Thermal Testing Chamber
    Jeffrey S. Tiller, Adjunct Research Professor 
    In Fall 2017 and Spring 2018, a research team built a large thermal testing chamber, also called a hot box. The apparatus is
    hot boxdesigned to test walls for heat loss under different conditions in order to estimate the wall’s insulating value. The chamber has been used successfully to estimate the R‐value of a 2x6 wood‐framed wall insulated with R-23 Rockwool Insulation. Tests were conducted for three installation grades (1, 2 and 3) at three different temperature ranges. This project will add a packaged freezer unit so the team can conduct tests at temperatures of 14 degrees F, further expanding the capacity of the hot box and the team’s ability to analyze building envelop configurations.  


These projects will support faculty and staff energy related research at Appalachian, benefit the citizens of NC, and potentially lead to external funding to support future work. Congratulations to the awardees, and we look forward to reporting the results next year!  If you are interested in learning more about these projects or collaborating on related work, please contact us!

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Jamie Russell, PhD, MEng
Interim Director

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Boone, NC 28608


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