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.

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Space Coast Education Community Celebrates Its 20th Year Recognizing Exemplary Science Teachers

COCOA, Fla., August 17, 2018 — The University of Central Florida congratulates seven outstanding science teachers who received the distinguished Exemplary Science Teacher Award from the Space Coast Science Education Alliance (SCSEA) on August 7 at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC). The award is given in recognition of Brevard County teachers who continually go above and beyond the norm to educate their students in science.

The 2018 SCSEA Exemplary Science Teacher award winners are Michelle M. Berry, Endeavour Elementary; Roger Cohen, Gemini Elementary; Jennifer Cotton, Titusville High; Jeffrey Higginbotham, Rockledge High; Angela Lambert, Harbor City Elementary; Aaron Mitchell, Bayside High; and, Tammie Rutkowski, Riviera Elementary. Roger Cohen and Tammie Rutkowski were also inducted into the Exemplary Science Teacher Hall of Fame, as this was their second award.

Photo of 2018 Exemplary Science Teachers and Brevard County administrators
Pictured from left to right (teachers are holding their awards) are: Loren Kingsley, District Secondary Science Resource Teacher; Aaron Mitchell (Bayside High); Jeffrey Higginbotham (Rockledge High); Jennifer Cotton (Titusville High); Tammie Rutkowski (Riviera Elementary); Angela Lambert (Harbor City Elementary); Dr. Mark Mullins, BCPS Superintendent; Michelle Berry (Endeavour Elementary); Michelle Ferro, Elementary Science Content Specialist, and Roger Cohen (Gemini Elementary).

New BCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Mullins presented the unusual “awards” that drew much excitement from the recipients. Each teacher received a Triceratops fossil that had been carefully mounted as a display piece by the Academy of Natural History Preparation, a nonprofit science education organization located in Rockledge. In addition to the elegant banquet provided by Renaissance Catering, each teacher received an honorarium and a one-year membership to a science education organization, such as the Florida Association of Science Teachers.

The inaugural SCSEA Exemplary Science Teacher awards banquet was held in 1999 at FSEC. “When we started this program 20 years ago, it was to encourage exemplary science teachers to keep up the great work and for the Space Coast community to say thank you for the sacrifices that teachers and their families make. That goal remains the same,” said Susan Schleith, SCSEA Treasurer and FSEC K-12 Education Program Director. The great science teachers that we have in Brevard are a key reason Brevard is among the top Florida school districts in science.

“The importance our businesses, industry and other organizations place on science makes Brevard County a very special place to live and work”, said Ginger Davis, retired BPCS Science Coordinator and SCSEA Vice President. That was evidenced by the numerous sponsors from across the Space Coast that made the awards program and banquet possible. Gold sponsors were Brevard Zoo, Canaveral Council of Technical Societies, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida Solar Energy Center, Lockheed Martin, STEMScopes Florida and the Viera Company. Silver sponsors were Academy of Natural History Preparation, Discovery Education, Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill.

A new award, the Informal Science Educator Award of Excellence in tribute of Elizabeth Melvin was also announced at the dinner by Jennifer Thompson. Brevard County is known for strong science education outside of the formal classroom, too. Organizations like Brevard County Parks and Recreation, Keep Brevard Beautiful and the Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department, where Mrs. Melvin last worked, contribute greatly to science literacy.

The evening had other special moments including recognition of Suzanne Leslie, retired from the Eastern Florida State College Planetarium and Observatory, for her support of the Exemplary Science Teacher Awards Program. For well over ten years the awards banquet had been held at the Planetarium in Cocoa, which is closed and may not re-open due to hurricane damage. John Latherow, who recently retired from Satellite High and who is a past Hall of Fame winner was recognized for his years of service and was invited to continue to inspire others by becoming a member of the Space Coast Science Education Alliance.

The SCSEA is a nonprofit representing organizations and individuals who work together to improve scientific education and STEM literacy in Brevard County. For more information about the Exemplary Science Teacher Awards or SCSEA, please visit www.spacecoastscience.org.

For more information, please contact Susan Schleith, SCSCEA Treasurer and FSEC K-12 Education Program Director, at susan@fsec.ucf.edu or 321-638-1017.

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UCF 1 of 6 Nationwide Teams Selected to Lead Research Partnerships for High-Performance Housing

Interior of townhouse with staircase by front door. Return air grill under on side of staircase with mini-split ac unti above front door.
This mini-split air conditioning unit is located as close as possible to the central return grille of the existing system to help with room-to-room air distribution.

By Sherri Shields

COCOA, Fla., July 11, 2017—The University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of six nationwide teams selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $3.7 million to study how to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality (IAQ) in homes.

The selected projects are expected to lead to improved home energy efficiency and smarter home operation for millions of American families, saving money on their energy bills while improving health and comfort.

UCF will get more than $870,000 for two, two-year projects, which will be led by the university’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cocoa, Fla. The center is a leader in energy research, with three decades of energy and buildings research, technical assistance, and training experience. It’s expertise has led to it being named a DOE Building America Program’s Industry Partnerships recipient.

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FSEC Earns 2017 ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes Market Leader Award

COCOA, Fla., June 30, 2017—The University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center® has earned an ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes Market Leader Award in recognition of its continued commitment to providing our nation’s homebuyers with ENERGY STAR® certified homes.

EnergyStar Market Leader Award 2017 Certified Homes logo
Home nergy raters submitted 2,905 home energy ratings through FSEC software services in 2017.

Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes program presents Market Leader Awards to outstanding partners who have made important contributions to energy–efficient construction and environmental protection by building or verifying an outstanding number of ENERGY STAR® certified homes. As a rating provider, Florida Solar Energy Center® (FSEC®) contributed 2,905 ENERGY STAR® certified homes in 2016, which is equivalent to reducing CO2 emissions by 4,915 metric tons.

“FSEC is pleased to be recognized for this award on behalf of the energy raters who worked with builders to achieve ENERGY STAR-labeled homes and registered their ratings through our software services,” says Robin Vieira, director of Buildings Research at FSEC.

The expert team of FSEC trainers and reviewers, working with energy raters, are an integral part of FSEC’s success as an ENERGY STAR® provider. In addition, FSEC’s innovative EnergyGauge software “automatically computes the necessary ENERGY STAR calculation to make determining the energy efficiency level of compliance easy,” explains Vieira.

The partnership between FSEC and ENERGY STAR® has been a lasting one. “FSEC helped EPA launch the ENERGY STAR® for Homes program in 1995 and will continue to work to research energy-efficient methods and to educate the building industry on best practices,” added Vieira.

The ENERGY STAR® program helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the environment through superior energy efficiency standards.

Learn more about ENERGY STAR at https://www.energystar.gov/about.

Review the full list of ENERGY STAR award winners at https://www.energystar.gov/about/2017_energy_star_certified_homes_market_leader_award_winners.

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Permit-Ready Solar System Certification Now Faster and Cheaper

GO SOLAR Florida. Express PV Certifiction System. Fast. Permit-Ready. Low-cost. https://scp.fsec.ucf.edu/
Express PV Certification now FREE until the end of June.

COCOA, Fla., June 19, 2017— Contractors installing photovoltaic (solar electric) systems in Florida can now obtain permit-ready documents in a matter of minutes, thanks to a new online express solar certification system developed by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)®.

The database-driven, web-based Solar Certification Portal will process inputs from professional engineers and contractors licensed to install photovoltaic (PV) systems in Florida. The output includes an electrical schematic and supporting equipment documentation—which complies with prevailing codes and standards—certified by FSEC and ready for use in the building permit process.

Express system certification only costs $150—a $100 reduction over the current manual system certification fee. Tier 1 PV systems (10kW or less) are eligible for express processing.

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