TRACK E: Research & Innovation


E1: Public + Private Partnerships

April 17, 10:30am - 12:00pm

Hear about the latest clean energy innovations that are springing from collaborations between the business and research sectors in North Carolina. University energy research and extension centers play a key role in connecting and meeting the needs of the clean energy sector through these partnerships. This panel discussion will explore successes and challenges, and ways we can enhance this exchange of ideas and resources.

Moderator: Greg Monty, Director, Center for Energy Research & Technology, NC A&T University

Greg is the Director of the Center for Energy Research and Technology at NCA&T State University. Greg was a Professor at both the University of Michigan and Arizona State University (ASU). At ASU he was Director of the Center for Solid-State Electronics Research and was responsible for stimulating various areas of research growth. Greg’s early career was focused in the semiconductor industry where he founded 3 separate start-up companies and developed semiconductor divisions within Motorola. Greg also worked for a Nanotechnology company where he worked on carbon nanotubes, energy storage devices, hydrogen detectors, and field-emission displays. Greg has over 18 patents in semiconductor technology, nanotechnology, displays, and sensors. Greg has published more than 25 technical reports and papers. Greg has been very active in renewable energy with ImagineSolar, in smart grid demonstration projects with NCSU and the University of Texas’ Pecan Street Project, and in environmental compliance and corporate social responsibility. Greg earned a PhD & Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and a Bachelor’s degree from Purdue

Panelist: Mike Mazzola, Director, Energy Production & Infrastructure Center (EPIC), UNC-Charlotte

Dr. Michael Mazzola is the Director of the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) and the Duke Energy Distinguished Chair in Power Engineering Systems at UNC Charlotte. Dr. Mazzola holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Old Dominion University. After three years in government service at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1993 he joined the faculty at Mississippi State University where he became known for his research in the areas of silicon carbide power semiconductor device prototyping and semiconductor materials growth and characterization. For the past 10 years he served at the Mississippi State University Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems as the associate director for advanced vehicle systems, where he lead research in high-voltage engineering, power systems modeling and simulation, the application of silicon carbide semiconductor devices in power electronics, and the control of hybrid electric vehicle power trains. In addition, he served two years as the chief technology officer of SemiSouth Laboratories, a company he co-founded.


E2: Implementing Cybersecurity Projects

April 17, 1:30pm - 3:00pm

Cybersecurity is a need we all understand is important, but how do we know what is required, and how to implement and maintain it? These overarching questions are important to ensure cybersecurity is not an afterthought. In this session, experts on cybersecurity will share their experience on implementing cybersecurity on clean energy and energy efficiency projects.

Moderator: Oscar Llama, Engineering Specialist, NC Clean Energy Technology Center

Oscar Llama is an engineering specialist with the clean power and industrial efficiency team at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. His previous industry experience began in 2011 at Intertek Westport Technology Center, where he worked as a Project Manager for multiple energy-related studies. In 2015, he joined Occidental Petroleum as a Reservoir Engineer responsible for developing and evaluating energy projects in West Texas. Taking advantage of a long-time promise to move closer to family in North Carolina, he joined the Center in 2017 to continue his life-passion of learning about energy technologies with a greater appreciation for the conservation of our planet. He holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Petroleum Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.

Panelist: Hal Aldridge, Ph.D., CEO, Secmation

Dr. Hal Aldridge founded Secmation, a cybersecurity systems engineering company specializing in applications including Defense, Internet of Things, and Industrial Control Systems. Prior to founding Secmation, Dr. Aldridge served as CTO at Sypris Electronics, an information security company specializing in high assurance electronics and software used to protect sensitive communications and critical infrastructure. Before entering the cybersecurity industry, Dr. Aldridge developed robotic systems for NASA and Northrop Grumman. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University specializing in fault tolerant control systems. His experience in both cybersecurity and robotics gives Dr. Aldridge a unique point of view on the security of Industrial Control Systems.

Panelist: Bob Elliott, President, AMR Systems, LLC


E3: Innovative Financing for Community Solar

April 17, 3:30pm - 5:00pm

While the solar industry has well-established financing mechanisms for utility and residential installations, challenges still remain for finding efficient ways to finance community solar projects. Currently, most community solar projects do not possess the economies of scale to attract the necessary parties to efficiently monetize the tax incentives. Added to the complexity are ways to incorporate different community solar subscription models, especially ones that involve contribution of capital from the subscribers. This session will engage expert panelists to share potential financing solutions that will begin to address some of these challenges, including: ways to efficiently monetize the tax incentives, insights to providing sufficient returns and incentives to investors or the participating utilities, new strategies to engage the capital markets, implications of updated federal tax code, and methods of attracting and maintaining subscribers.

Moderator: Henry Tsai, Deputy Director, NC Clean Energy Technology Center

Henry is the deputy director of the Center and is responsible for the financial, economic and business strategy development of the overall renewable energy initiatives. Henry joined the Center in 2004 to serve as Principal Investigator for several state and federally sponsored policy research projects. His key experiences and expertise include: Valuation of commercial and industrial scale projects in biofuels and solar; portfolio and financial risk management in capital projects and capital markets; development of strategic relationships in higher risk business models; financial modeling and contract negotiations in large scale power projects that are significantly tied to emerging federal and state legislation; capital budgeting processes for complicated investment and ownership structures. Before joining the Center, Henry managed the export department of a Fortune 500 logistics company, where he also served as a financial analyst. During his tenure at the company, Henry designed and initiated export protocols for the Central American business lane, cross-trained and merged services between the domestic and international divisions, and initiated export processes that resulted in year-to-year positive gains in revenue, profit margin, and overall net income for the department. Henry has a B.A. from Duke University and an MBA from NC State University.

Panelist: Lee Peterson, JD, Senior Manager, CohnReznick

Lee Peterson is a licensed attorney and Senior Tax Manager for CohnReznick’s National Renewable Energy Practice. To date, Lee has been a critical tax advisor in over 10 billion dollars of renewable energy projects within the U.S. and its’ territories. He is responsible for thought-leadership and governmental affairs and his clients include the U.S. Department of Energy, Fortune 100 companies, state and local governments and domestic and foreign renewable energy project developers and manufacturers. Lee also advises the nation’s top financial institutions regarding their tax equity investment structures. Lee has published numerous articles in both the traditional and trade press, including, North American Windpower and Solar Industry magazine and he is regularly quoted in the media. Lee is also the author of numerous white papers on a wide range of critical renewable energy finance and tax topics and is a regular speaker at national professional education and industry events dealing with renewable energy policy, tax credit finance and federal and state tax policy. Lee volunteers hundreds of hours, pro bono, assisting non-profit renewable energy organizations, federal and state legislators as they seek to improve and implement new energy policies. For 10 years, Lee was an adjunct professor at Clayton State University and is a guest lecturer for the J. Mack Robinson MBA program at Georgia State University. Lee has also served as instructor for the State Bar of Georgia continuing legal education seminars.

Panelist: Chris Wedding, Managing Partner, IronOak Energy Capital

Chris Wedding, Ph.D. is an entrepreneur, adviser, and award-winning professor focused on investment, innovation, and strategy in clean energy, green real estate, and corporate sustainability. He has 20 years of experience in private equity, startup incubation, solar power finance, green building innovation, executive education, and academia. On the side, Dr. Wedding is ​an Executive in Residence with the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, ranked as the #8 best university in the U.S.; a faculty member with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School, ranked #7 in the world for sustainable enterprise; a faculty member with the Institute for Defense and Business, an executive training center for U.S. military leaders; a faculty member Duke Corporate Education, the world's #1 provider of custom executive education; a biomimicry expert trained as a Biologist at the Design Table by Biomimicry 3.8, the world’s leading authority on the science and business application of biomimicry; and one of the earliest LEED Accredited Professionals with the US Green Building Council. He was also Director and Senior Advisor at Cherokee Investment Partners, a private equity firm that has raised over $2 billion in private equity funds and, separately, founded or invested in 80 startups and venture funds. He brings a global perspective, with experience in 20 countries and language abilities in Spanish, Japanese, and Creole. As one of the top 10% most viewed LinkedIn profiles, he is a connector, catalyst, thought leader, and frequent speaker at national and international investor and energy conferences. Dr. Wedding received a BS summa cum laude in Environmental Science from Western Kentucky University, where he was a national Goldwater Scholar. At UNC, he earned an MS and PhD that combined studies in business strategy, environmental management, and city planning.

Panelist: Thomas Pash, Manager, CohnReznick

Thomas has over nine years of experience in the renewable energy industry, including the last five with CohnReznick LLP as part of the Project Finance and Consulting Group in Charlotte, NC. During his time with CohnReznick, Thomas has distinguished himself as a leader in the firm’s renewable energy practice, serving as a tax credit advisor on several utility scale solar and wind projects both inside and outside North Carolina, providing financial modeling and advisory services to developers, investors and other energy project sponsors. Prior to CohnReznick, Thomas worked as a Financial Analyst at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. In this role, his primary responsibility was promoting the renewable energy industry in North Carolina through interactions with companies interested in this space throughout the state. This includes the completion of market studies for existing technologies in new energy markets, third party feasibility studies for large scale renewable projects, and technical support for the application of federal, local and utility incentives programs. Thomas holds both an MBA and MAC from NC State University.


E4: Innovation Behind the Meter

April 18, 10:30am - 12:00pm

An often overlooked aspect of electric grid efficiency is the potential that exists on the customer's side of the meter. This session will cover ways that behind-the-meter deployment of efficiency, demand response, generation and storage technologies can lower costs for both utilities and their customers. North Carolina is starting to move in this direction, but what are the strategies and incentives that will lead to the best outcome?

Moderator: Ken Dulaney, Director of Industry and Innovation, FREEDM Center, NC State University

Ken Dulaney is the Director of Industry and Innovation at the FREEDM Systems Center, an NSF Engineering Research Center headquartered at NC State University dedicated to building the internet of energy: a network of distributed energy resources that intelligently manages power using secure communications and advanced power electronics. Ken's role is to connect corporate research needs to Center capabilities. He previously worked in industrial energy efficiency and environmental consulting. He holds degrees from Furman, Georgia Tech and the University of Texas.

Panelist: Kevin Witchger, PE, Energy Manager, Wake County GSA

Kevin Witchger is a Facilities Engineer and Energy Manager at Wake County Government General Services Administration (GSA). Kevin’s role is to help support maintenance and operation of County buildings by conducting and managing energy assessments and efficiency projects, developing County Energy Guidelines and renewable energy strategies as well as maintaining and using energy data to find and achieve cost savings. Kevin is a Professional Engineer and has a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from NC State University. He previously worked at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center performing industrial and renewable energy assessments before joining Wake County.

Panelist: Chris Doerfler, Founder, 3DFS Software-Defined Electricity

Chris Doerfler is a founder of 3DFS Software-Defined Electricity, a research, development and manufacturing company headquartered in Pittsboro, NC. Chris' role is to expand the awareness of incorporating Real-Time computing into power networks to minimize losses in electricity flow. These days, his main focus is opening up large scale business collaboration and alliances to significantly reduce energy consumption, improve grid stability and ensure power networks are physically and cyber secure. Chris is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. .


E5: Using Data to Increase Energy Efficiency for Low-Income Households

April 18, 1:30pm - 3:00pm

This session will provide you with updates on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Powering Energy Efficiency & Impacts Framework project. Learn about efforts to bring together publicly available information with local utility energy data and low-income energy service providers in a five county region in North Carolina. The results will help drive household energy efficiency and organizational efficiency and collaboration to better serve low-income residents.

Moderator: Ron Townley, Assistant Executive Director & Director of Planning and Development Services, Upper Coastal Plain Council of Government

Thirty years combined management experience in the public and private sector achieving proven and distinguished success. Results include effectively implementing governing body priorities & policies, legislative relations and support, building collaborative partnerships with local, regional, state, and federal officials while managing communications among diverse stakeholders and the public, comprehensive planning and development for local governments, raising and leveraging millions in funds for government and community projects.

Panelist: Maye Hickman, Program Manager, NC Department of Environmenal Quality, Weatherization Assitance Program

Maye Hickman is the Program Manager for the North Carolina Weatherization Assistance Program for the Department of Environmental Quality. Her background includes management of Home Rehabilitation projects and Energy Star new construction. She graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Business Science Degree and holds several housing certifications including: BPI Envelope/Building Analyst Professional, Multifamily Building Analyst, Quality Control Inspector and the BB&T National Housing Development Finance Certification. Her hobbies include reading, theatre and outdoor activities; with interests in sustainable home development and reducing domestic utility consumption.

Panelist: Daniel Kaufman, President, ResiSpeak, Inc

Daniel Kauffman is the Founder and President of ResiSpeak, a utility data collection and analysis service for home and building portfolios. In this role, Daniel regularly assists utilities, energy and sustainability managers, energy efficiency program administrators and others with utility data analysis, load control program evaluation, building performance assessment, inefficient home identification, virtual energy audits, post-retrofit energy savings measurement, and program progress tracking.

Panelist: Charlynne Smith, Research Associate, Center for Geospatial Analystics, NC State University

Charlynne is a Research Associate at NC State University's College of Natural Resources, working with the Center for Geospatial Analytics. She has over 20 years of experience applying geospatial technology solutions as both a researcher and educator. Her interests focus on the delivery of solution-driven research for positive impact addressing decision-support systems and collaboration within and across organizations. Her area of expertise is in evaluating the capacity for adoption, implementation and dissemination of innovative collaboration tools. This includes web-based geographic information systems for communication and decision support among resource management stakeholders. She supplements GIS expertise with skills in supervision, leadership and conflict resolution. Dr. Smith is a certified Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) and a Natural Resources Leadership Institute Fellow.