N.C. A&T Center to Implement Energy-Efficient Community Initiatives, Enhancing Opportunities

By Alexander Saunders / 05/20/2021 Research and Economic Development, College of Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (May 20, 2021) – The Center for Energy Research and Technology (CERT) at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University received three grants totaling more than $500,000 to bolster regional energy-efficient building construction and cost savings in low-income communities hardest hit during the pandemic.

With federal CARES ACT funding appropriated to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) and allocated to the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ), CERT will help the region meet the nation’s 2021 clean energy and transportation investment. These initiatives will focus on researching the true economic sustainability impacts of energy efficiency projects for residential housing, a housing laboratory on the university’s farm, and a summer apprenticeship program.

“CERT is implementing three energy-efficiency projects in 2021 with goals to understand how low-to-moderate income households near A&T campus can benefit from house weatherization, energy-efficiency upgrades, and solar-system installs,” said Gregory Monty, Ph.D., CERT director. “The benefitting families and housing were selected based on the age and condition of the home, as well as the participating families’ likely impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For these initiatives, CERT is collaborating with faculty members representing multiple departments in the N.C. A&T College of Engineering (COE).

Modeling a Sustainable Home
“Measuring energy consumption, and focusing on the building exterior, ventilation system, insulation, LED lights, Energy Star-certified products, weatherization, and controls will not only lower your utility bills, but can also impact your health, property value, and overall daily activities,” said Raymond Tesiero, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering. “We are helping our surrounding communities better understand a sustainable future.”

Tesiero will serve as the principal investigator on the LMI Housing Energy Efficiency Impact Project grant to manufacture and analyze an energy-efficient home on the university farm. The home will serve as a research laboratory as well as a place for researchers and community members to learn more about the potential of energy efficiency projects in their own neighborhood.

To the researchers collaborating on these initiatives, these types of building energy research grants foster engineering skills in unique laboratory capabilities, the development of new sustainable and affordable housing innovations, analysis and simulation of building energy components, energy assessments, and field measurement and verification.

Conducting Research in the Community
The LMI Housing Audit, Upgrades and Monitor Project will have a direct impact for 15 to 20 low-to-moderate income homes near the A&T campus through retrofitting the homes for various projects to improve the energy efficiency of the HVAC systems, insulation and more. Additionally, researchers will use the data collected to assess and target costs and viability of these types of projects to potentially use as model for future research aimed to address the nation’s clean energy and transportation initiative.

This project also allowed CERT to leverage the NC DHHS/NC DEQ funding to attract additional outside not-for-profit organization/foundation investment: installing solar systems on LMI homes in the A&T campus area, including homes that are retrofitted by this CERT grant. About 15 to 20 LMI homes will receive solar installations provided by the HBCU-Community Development Action Coalition/Clean Energy Initiative. This additional funding shows how valuable energy research grants can increase the investment in local communities surrounding HBCUs.

Workforce Development
The Energy Fast-Track Certifications and Local Industry Partnerships (E-FLIP) will develop a pilot program for a summer energy-related apprenticeship in Guilford, Wake and Halifax counties that offers paid, on-the-job training for 31 high school and college students. This summer’s pilot program is expected to develop into both an Energy-Efficiency Apprenticeship program, and a Solar Apprenticeship program across the state.

“Energy workforce development will empower the workers and youth with skills-gap training and fulfill the growing job demands in energy sectors such as energy efficiency, clean energy, electric vehicles, solar and renewable energies,” said Balakrishna Gokaraju, Ph.D., associate professor of computational data science and engineering.

These initiatives are made possible through support from the NC DEQ State Energy Office, NC DHHS, U.S. DHHS, Officer of the Governor, ApprenticeshipNC, NC Community College System, Halifax County Schools, Halifax Solar Companies, Wake and Guilford HVAC and energy efficiency companies, Guilford Technical Community College, Halifax Community College and Wake Technical Community College. 

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

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