UCF Leads National Team to Study Floating Solar

Photo courtesy of Orlando Utilities Commission.

The University of Central Florida will lead a nationwide team to study the performance and long-term scalability of floating solar panels thanks to a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center was selected to study the performance of floating photovoltaics (FPV) solar technology and how it interacts with water quality and biodiversity in Florida, California and Colorado.

The unlikely combination of electricity and water is the foundation of an emerging energy market in the United States. FPV is electricity-generating solar panels, affixed atop buoyant platforms that float on water.

Limited land availability, reduced site-preparation costs, and the opportunity to utilize man-made bodies of water, such as reservoirs, retention ponds and wastewater storage ponds, are among the reasons for FPV popularity. According to an October 2018 World Bank report, floating solar grew 100 percent from 2014 to 2018, although primarily outside of the U.S.

It is speculated that floating solar results in cooler cell temperatures, and subsequently should be more efficient than land-based systems. FPV may also reduce evaporation rates and algae. Research documenting the performance, durability and environmental impacts of floating solar is limited, but that’s about to change. The research project is expected to begin early next year.

“We’ll be taking an in-depth look at the floating photovoltaic systems over the next three years,” says John Sherwin, principal investigator of the project and program director at FSEC. “This project is the first of its kind in the U.S. and we are excited to be part of a world-class research team that will collect critical data on this emerging technology.”

Partners include: University of California Davis, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Orlando Utilities Commission, City of Orlando and Ciel & Terre.

The project will monitor the performance, durability, water-quality impacts and biodiversity interactions of four existing floating solar sites across diverse climatic regions: humid subtropical in Florida; subarctic/boreal climate in Colorado; and two warm summer/Mediterranean-type climate sites, in California. Land-based systems in those same regions will also be monitored for comparison.

UC Davis will lead the environmental analysis part of the project.

“We’re particularly interested in how floating photovoltaics affect water quality and interactions with wildlife, including birds, bats, turtles and other aquatic life,” says  Rebecca R. Hernandez, an assistant professor at UC Davis and co-director of the Wild Energy Initiative. “A better understanding of those impacts can help us make better decisions about siting renewable energy infrastructure and can reduce future costs.”

The Orlando Utilities Commission was an early adopter of floating solar and installed a 31.5-kilowatt system in February 2017. The floating solar array, located on a pond at the Gardenia Operations Facility (near John Young Parkway and I-4) and tied to the electric grid, will be part of the study.

“We continue to work closely with our partners to enhance solar deployment in Central Florida, and to determine how best to implement the latest technologies,” says Justin Kramer, supervisor of Emerging Technologies at OUC. “With so many ponds and lakes already devoid of trees, there is potential to greatly increase our solar output.”

Floating photovoltaic systems covering 27 percent of the identified suitable water bodies could produce almost 10 percent of current national generation, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers.

Please follow and like us:

City of New Smyrna Beach Hires FSEC to Conduct Building Audits and Solar Studies

New Smyrna Beach seal. In center of seal are boats without sails sitting in water, with palm leaves on edges.

The City of New Smyrna Beach is considering solar and renewable energy resources for their municipal facilities, and has hired FSEC’s interdisciplinary team of energy analysts and solar engineers to conduct energy audits and solar feasibility assessments for 18 facilities.

The energy audits will identify cost-effective measures for reducing building energy consumption in order to optimize the expenditures for solar equipment. The solar feasibility assessment will detail the best options for renewable energy, including sizing, installation costs, maintenance costs, system life expectancy, and return on investment. FSEC will provide recommendations for reducing the city’s overall electrical demand and also for developing attainable goals for incremental solar and renewable energy installations.

For more information, contact Faith Miller, New Smyrna Beach Maintenance Operations Director, fmiller@cityofnsb.com, or Colleen Kettles, FSEC Program Director, ckettles@fsec.ucf.edu.

Please follow and like us:

WARNING: SCAMMERS Posing as Florida Solar Energy Center

Warning sign, red outline triangle with black exclamation point in middle, cludy blue sky background
WARNING! Scammers posing as FSEC.

WARNING: SCAMMERS are posing as the Florida Solar Energy Center. FSEC® has received several reports from consumers that they are receiving multiple calls (from different phone numbers) from a telemarketer posing to be the Florida Solar Energy Center. In some cases, they are even being referred to the FSEC website. FSEC is a research institute of the University of Central Florida (UCF). FSEC will not call consumers to offer help with an electric bill, offer a free estimate, or solicit information for a purchase.

UCF recommends you file a complaint at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/stop-unwanted-calls-and-texts.

You can also visit the Florida Office of the Attorney General website for Consumer Protection.

Solar contractors must be licensed to do business in the state. You can check licenses at: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/

Learn how to protect yourself from robocalls: https://consumersunion.org/end-robocalls/

UCF has trademark registrations for FSEC® and other related FLORIDA SOLAR ENERGY CENTER marks.  Unauthorized use is a violation of federal and state laws.

Please follow and like us:

Smart Vent Tech Improves IAQ and Saves Money, Energy

By Jennifer Josey
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
February 22, 2018

How many times have you completed a system upgrade for a device only to find that it’s glitchy? No one wants to “upgrade” to downgrade, and we don’t like being inconvenienced as things get “smarter.” This is just as true for our homes. Reducing energy consumption (thereby saving money) is a key driver for smart, integrated tech (think smart thermostats); however, adoption is lower if an upgrade risks compromising resident comfort.

Whole-house, smart ventilation is one such up-and-coming “smart” technology. But before it takes off, there are a couple of hurdles to jump: integration with standard heating and cooling systems, and proving the risks are limited and the benefits are many. Researchers with the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center® (FSEC®), in partnership with Washington State University, are tackling smart ventilation systems head on.

UCF/FSEC researchers Chuck Withers and Dave Chasar installing a mechanical ventilation control unit on a flexible duct.
UCF/FSEC researchers Chuck Withers and Dave Chasar installing a fan on a flexible duct to test an energy-efficient mechanical ventilation control design.

In a first-of-its-kind report, “Field and Laboratory Testing of Approaches to Smart Whole-House Mechanical Ventilation Control,” FSEC documented research on lab and field testing of smart ventilation control (SVC) systems. The report explains that whole-house mechanical ventilation is a critical component to a comprehensive indoor air quality (IAQ) strategy. In addition, these systems can help the residential sector more reliably design, install, and operate mechanical ventilation systems to achieve best-practice IAQ while saving energy and improving comfort, moisture, and peak load impacts.

Read more

Please follow and like us: