COCOA, Fla. – When the U.S. State Department wanted to show ambassadors from more than 40 nations some of Florida’s most comprehensive research in sustainable energy, they came straight to the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC).
On Thursday, those ambassadors toured the center and observed sunlight being used for everything from cooking food and heating water to creating electricity that can be used to power homes and offices.
Ambassador Nancy Brinker, United States Chief of Protocol and the initiator of the State Department’s “Experience America” tour program for members of the Washington, D.C. Diplomatic Corps, said FSEC was the perfect choice for the ambassadors’ inaugural tour.
“The practical application of what UCF is doing here is fantastic,” Brinker said. “Now the ambassadors can see and understand [the potential of alternative energy] and take this knowledge back to their countries and their universities.”
The “Experience America” program was designed to facilitate travel within the U.S. for the heads of foreign diplomatic missions and their staff members to enhance their understanding of the diverse elements of life in the U.S.
Ambassador Brinker led the Diplomatic Corps to her home state of Florida because of the state’s demonstrated leadership in key areas of international interest such as sustainable energy, international space cooperation, and security.
The ambassadors were welcomed to FSEC by Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp, who gave an overview of Florida’s dedication to transforming to a renewable resource society, and FSEC Director James Fenton.
The group visited a variety of research labs at the center, including the hydrogen lab. There, they learned about the research being conducted to find new methods for producing, storing, and using hydrogen safely. Fenton, an accomplished hydrogen fuel cell expert, also demonstrated the use of mobile fuel cell devices. Several of the visitors were particularly impressed by FSEC’s solar simulator, an indoor lamp powerful enough to reproduce sunlight in order to test the performance and durability of solar water collectors.
“If Florida is the sunshine state then we are the sunshine country,” said Ambassador Raymah Hussain of Malaysia. She said her country is studying multiple sources of alternative energy but is still trying to determine which methods are most efficient and cost effective.
Brinker said the visit to FSEC exceeded her goals for the program. “All people have to do is come visit and they can see this is the way of the future.”
The Florida Solar Energy Center is a research institute of the University of Central Florida. It is the largest and most active state-supported energy research institute in the country. Center divisions and their research activities include Advanced Energy Research: alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel and fuel cells; Buildings Research: energy-efficient buildings; and Solar Energy: solar water and pool heating and solar electric (photovoltaics) and distributed generation systems. For more information, visit www.floridaenergycenter.org or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at 321-638-1015.
** Photographs from event are available upon request.