Core Team Members
Steve Dawson is a recently retired Army Colonel of 27 years, awarded the Legion of Merit, who chose Alexander in Buncombe County as his family’s “forever” home. He possesses an Electrical Engineering degree from Northeastern University and Masters degrees in National Security and Strategy, and worked in the power industry for 4 years. He served as an Information Technology and Cyber Security expert for the US Army and as city manager for all US Army bases in Hawaii where he oversaw micro-grid projects, renewable energy initiatives, energy savings performance contracts, landfill diversion efforts, waste water reuse, and city resiliency planning. He had a 15KW PV system installed at his Alexander property in 2020, that completed interconnection to Duke Progress' grid before year's end.
Dave Erb has a four-decade automotive engineering career focused on energy and emissions, Dave Erb developed vehicles using diesel, biodiesel, gasoline, alcohol, natural gas, electric, and hybrid electric powertrains. From 1995 to 2004, he created and taught a three-day professional development short course on “Design of Hybrid Electric Vehicles” for the Society of Automotive Engineers. Dave blogs about electric vehicles at cleanenergy.org and is the author of Chapter 1 of “Driving to Net 0: Stories of Hope for a Carbon-Free Future,” a collection of 15 first-person accounts of families combining solar houses, electric cars, and other sustainability strategies. He was recently appointed to a three year term on the Blue Horizons Project Community Council. Dave earned BS and MS degrees in Aerospace & Ocean Engineering from Virginia Tech, and an MBA from Queens College.
Concept Development & Student Engagement
Laura Brower is an Aerospace engineer with 15 years experience working with spacecraft and science instruments for NASA, JPL, and foreign agencies. She is a Systems Engineer with a specialty in designing for extreme environments. Laura concurrently founded and directed an environmental nonprofit that operated for 5 years, focused on building infrastructure for waste management in Colorado. She holds a BS from Purdue University and MS from the University of Colorado in Aerospace Engineering.
Michael Benson started a consulting firm in 2018 to focus on electrification for local governments developing microgrids to support mission-critical electric vehicle fleets.
His award-winning 30-year career in public emergency services has included innovations which simultaneously improved service and lowered costs. Retired Chief Benson has served as a volunteer and career firefighter, paramedic and fire officer with his last eleven years as the Fire Chief for Copley Township in Summit County, Ohio. Chief Benson oversaw a 65-person department and successfully led them through organizational and cultural change. He lives in Wadsworth, Ohio with his wife and three children, and drives a 2018 Tesla Model 3.
Bill Fleming, BSME Univ. of Texas, MBA Harvard, PE, past CEO of Shelter Technology Inc., and Chief Engineer of Toward Net Zero (TNZ). Systems designer/builder/developer and project manager. Complex systems analysis and risk/opportunity scenarios. His body of work includes a thermal- solar district-energy radiant-heat residential development certified 60% more energy efficient than the Energy Star standard. He is a Member of the former Asheville Buncombe Energy Innovation Task Force’s Duke Energy Technical Committee, and started the Givens Gerber Park electrical load reduction project.
Concept Development & GIS Mapping
Neil Thomas is a small business owner/consultant with a background in geographic analysis and data modeling. He has worked in a variety of disciplines including, stream and wetland restoration, parcel density “change over time” monitoring, catastrophic reinsurance assessments, solar farm site selection, global satellite-based crop yield modeling, and water quantity modeling in large river basins. Neil received degrees from Wilkes Community College in 1975, Warren Wilson College in 1984, and Duke University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1987.
N. Moorthy Muthukrishnan
Concept Development & Student Engagement
N. Moorthy Muthukrishnan received his B.Eng from PSG Tech, Coimbatore, India, M.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT- Madras, India, MS and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech. He worked as an engineer in semiconductor manufacturing industry for over 14 years. For the past 15 years he has been working as a faculty member in various universities. Currently he is working as a Teaching Professor at North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina - Asheville. His areas of interest include solar energy, energy conservation, embedded systems, integrated circuit design, and manufacturing. He coordinated the design, installation and maintenance of 100 KW solar power plant. He is also holds a certification in Project Management.
Cofounder & Concept Development
(and Graphics & Video)
Kelly Gloger is a renewable energy consultant with over 30- years of experience in the field. He owned a solar company on St. Croix, USVI servicing all three islands, created and ran a training program for solar technicians at the STX Regional Technical Center, and now works for an Asheville solar company. He worked with VI Energy office and the VI Water & Power Authority to design a solar hot water financing program funded by The Reinvestment & Recovery act of 2008. He holds an MS from Texas A&M and an MA in architecture from Goddard College.
Student Engagement Leaders
Cofounder & Concept Development
Keith Thomson is a small business owner/ IT
Provider in Buncombe County for twenty-six years serving small businesses, professional offices, and nonprofit groups. He was appointed by the County Commission to be a member of the Buncombe County Energy Commission, serving as Secretary from 1982-84, which conducted the first energy audits on County facilities. From 2001-04, he was a City of Asheville appointee to the Clean Air Community Trust and served as Secretary/Treasurer. He holds earned degrees from UNC Asheville and UNC Chapel Hill, and lives in Black Mountain. Keith currently serves as a Buncombe County Jury Selection Commissioner and was appointed by Governor Cooper to be a 2020 NC Census Complete Count Commissioner.
Lief Van Sliedrecht
UNC Asheville/ NC State Engineering Program
UNC Asheville and NC State University offer an Engineering degree program in Mechatronics in Asheville. Our project has earned dedicated commitment from the faculty and students of the program. Our student Engagement leaders are learning HOMER Pro and Aurora Software for designing Microgrids and Solar Energy systems, and preparing to make valuable pro bono contributions for their campus and to several of our community projects.
Concept Development/ Financial Advisor
Walter (Walt) Bussells enjoyed a 29 year career at JEA, the $2 billion annual revenue, electric, water and sewer utility serving over 1 million people in Jacksonville, Florida. He rose through the ranks serving as CFO, CAO, and, for nine years before retiring in 2004, CEO. Under his leadership, numerous local, state and national awards were achieved for financial innovation and strength; environmental, operational, and technological advances; customer satisfaction; and, workplace safety. In addition, Walt led several industry leading structural changes, including the founding of The Energy Authority (TEA), the first national, public power owned and operated, wholesale electric and natural gas trading and risk management organization.
Since his JEA retirement, Walt works with area, national and international partners investing in, advising, developing, and financing advanced technology systems and processes for: efficient, clean energy and clean water; mergers and acquisitions; and advanced integrated infrastructure systems. Examples include: an advanced technology water treatment plant company; re-financing and upgrading a large city’s CBD chilled water grid system; the merger of large water and energy utilities; a compressed natural gas vehicle fleet fueling company; a renewable natural gas production company; advanced micro grid projects; a hydrogen injection for thermal efficiency company; and, utility scale solar farms.
Walt continues to make time for public engagement, including service as immediate past Chairman of the $2 Billion Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees, immediate past Chairman of the Board of Seamark Ranch, and currently with the Jacksonville Civic Council and the AB Critical Services Microgrid Group.