Florida Solar Energy Center Selected to Lead Three National Research Programs

The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) has been selected to receive more than $15 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) over a five-year period to conduct research in three major energy areas: fuel cells, industrialized housing, and building energy simulation.

FSEC, a research institute of the University of Central Florida (UCF), will lead nationwide teams of researchers from universities, DOE’s national laboratories and industry in the three projects.

The FSEC team will oversee the $19 million DOE High Temperature, Low Relative Humidity Membrane fuel cell work involving the activities of Working Group that includes researchers from Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Clemson University, the Colorado School of Mines, FuelCell Energy, General Electric, Giner Electrochemical Systems, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

The working group will prepare and evaluate new membranes for proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, a technology that has been receiving worldwide attention due to its uses in the hydrogen economy and the automobiles of the near term future. The potential applications for PEM fuel cells range from automotive propulsion to power for hand-held devices such as cell phones and PDAs.

In the second project that is being funded by DOE, the Building America Industrialized Housing Partnership (BAIHP) will continue its work to accelerate the nationwide development of cost-effective, production-ready energy technologies that can be widely implemented by factory and site homebuilders. These technologies will achieve 30 percent to 50 percent savings in whole-house energy use through a combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. The team will conduct research in the southeast (hot-humid climate zone) and the Pacific northwest (marine and cold climate zones) on improved duct systems, factory integrated heating, cooling and water heating systems, green products and processes, cool roofs and other energy-saving products and strategies.

The BAIHP team is led by FSEC in collaboration with UCF’s Industrial Engineering program and researchers and energy experts from Arizona State University, Calcs-Plus, Florida Home Energy and Resources Organization, Oregon Department of Energy, the Residential Energy Services Network, the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and Washington State University. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Energy Office has contributed significant matching funding. Collaborating industry team members include producers of HUD code housing (Champion, Clayton, Fleetwood and Palm Harbor) modular builders (Clayton, Excel, Palm Harbor, and Penn Lyon Homes) production builders (Centex and K. Hovnanian) and 18 affiliates of Habitat for Humanity International in six states.

The third project, Advancement of DOE’s EnergyPlus Building Energy Simulation Program, is an important multi-year effort to expand upon DOE’s investment in building science analysis tools. EnergyPlus is a building energy simulation program that focuses on improving the energy efficiency and long-term economic feasibility of buildings. It has been recognized worldwide for its excellence in technical ability to accurately model buildings.

FSEC will lead the diverse EnergyPlus team of collaborators for this project that includes experts from CDH Energy, DHL Consulting, GARD Analytics, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Oklahoma State University and C.O. Pedersen Associates. The group will work in collaboration with other developers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Because buildings use approximately one-third of all energy consumed nationally, DOE focuses significant research in buildings and promotes more energy-efficient equipment and appliances and lower energy-consuming building design. EnergyPlus is especially effective at accurately modeling buildings so that architects and engineers can investigate a variety of design alternatives for the building envelope and heating/cooling systems in an effort to obtain the most energy efficient and cost effective design possible.

The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research center in the United States. Current research activities include solar water and pool heating, photovoltaics (solar electric) and distributed generation systems, energy-efficient buildings, alternative transportation systems and fuels, hydrogen, fuel cells and other energy areas and energy education. For more information about the center or these new projects, visit http://www.fsec.ucf.edu or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at (321) 638-1015.