Design. Analyze. Build.

The Microgrid Research Group is engaged in projects across Buncombe County, North Carolina. A few of them are shown here, but we are often supporting new ones.


Electric Vehicle Retrofits

In collaboration with Warren Wilson College (WWC), and the STEAM studio at UNC Asheville, UNCA students and faculty from many majors, including Environmental Studies, Computer Science, Mechatronics and Engineering upgrade electric vehicle golf carts from the junk-pile to new and improved battery and solar-charging systems. This saves thousands of dollars compared to purchasing a new vehicle, and eliminates lead-acid battery waste.
Five 2023 UNCA Computer Science Senior Capstone project students, under the mentorship of Dr. Moorthy Muthukrishnan and Systems Integrator Keith Thomson ’89, have built a prototype data collection system for telematics to manage the growing fleet of Solar Mobile Microgrid Work Vehicles.  On-board computers, wirelessly connected to a cloud database, will record the battery state of charge, power generation and consumption, mileage and location of the vehicles for reporting to apps on smartphones.

student working on electrical wiring inside an electric golf cart

chancellor Van Noort riding in EV golf cart

UNCA and NCSU Mechatronics faculty Ms. Laura Brower and Dr. N Moorthy Muthukrishnan  worked with UNCA students and alumni Ross Woods (Mechatronics ’21), Fatin Ishraq (Mechatronics ’22), Nick Haas (Mechatronics ’24), John Castellani (Mechatronics ’24), Jason Robinson (Mechatronics ’24), and Maximo Perasso (Mechatronics ‘23). Alongside, are team members from WWC, student Nate Koffsky and faculty Dr. Dave Ellum. 


Solar Feasibility Analysis

UNCA students analyze the solar photovoltaic (PV) potential for on-campus areas using sophisticated software. Existing building rooftops and conceptual parking lot canopies are evaluated for the maximum power solar energy can provide. 

Undergraduate research is led by Dr. N Moorthy Muthukrishnan (Mechatronics Dept) and Dr. Alison Ormsby (Environmental Studies Dept).

Students Lief van Sliedrecht ‘23 (Mechatronics/Engineering major) and Corey McVay ‘23 (Applied Math major) led the project starting in 2021 and presented “A Feasibility Study of Solar Energy Production and a Microgrid on the University of North Carolina Asheville Campus.”

Corey McVay won the grand prize for her poster presentation on this topic at the 2022 Appalachian Energy Summit.


Building Energy Audits

Additional projects include an ASHRAE Level 1 Energy audit for the Asheville City Police and Fire Station, ASHRAE Level 1 Energy audit for Central United Methodist Church in Asheville, and an energy audit for a private residence with Generac solar and a storage nanogrid in Big Sandy Mush, NC.

Future research may include the continuation of these projects and future city, county, private, and public institution collaborations, as well as UNCA on-campus specific projects. To support our ongoing work to develop student skills, consider making a gift.