Powering Up Solutions

A team of five College of Engineering students have a plan for how to incorporate more clean energy at NC State.

As part of a two-semester electrical engineering senior design experience, students Jason Oliva Milla, Eric Daniel, Lawrence Navarro, Allison Keever and Julia David developed a plan for a solar photovoltaic (PV) system and battery storage at the Sullivan Shops Complex, which is home to many NC State Facilities Division departments.

Project sponsors NC State Energy Management and the University Sustainability Office proposed the design challenge as a way of engaging students in the advancement of renewable energy on campus. This project was connected to the Campus As A Classroom program, which provides experiential learning opportunities for students while improving university sustainability.

During the senior design course, team members conducted site evaluations and developed designs for a PV system and battery storage, performing a cost-benefit analysis for each system.

“This project provided hands-on experience of developing a renewable energy system from scratch — something that I have not done before,” said student Lawrence Navarro. “It was such a rewarding experience as I got to see the project develop from the brainstorming phase to the final product.”

In early April, the team presented their findings to campus stakeholders, who will assess the potential for implementation of the design. In the presentation, the students showcased how the proposed systems could provide lower operating costs, boost renewable energy and lower emissions.

Student Jason Oliva Milla shared that preparing for the presentation was an essential part of the capstone experience. 

“We had to be able to effectively communicate why our designs were the way they were and how they benefited our team sponsors and the NC State community. The design is only as good as you’re able to portray it to others,” he said.

The designs incorporated solar production at various rooftop locations and amounts, with some scenarios capable of significantly reducing NC State’s monthly peak load on main campus. The project also included potential locations for charging stations that could power future electric vehicles. A project like this “could boost our institution’s clean energy research and technology advancement,” said energy engineer and project mentor Raheem Ariwoola.

As a culmination to the team’s engineering education, the project required students “to not only apply engineering to the project, but also research real-world implications of the systems such as tax incentives, project management considerations and how to effectively sell a design,” said Oliva Milla.

These skill-building experiences have left the team better equipped for their next career steps.

“I want to work in the renewable energy field and this project gave me my first engineering project experience,” said student Eric Daniel.