Florida Solar Power Grant Targets Schools

COCOA, Fla. – The University of Central Florida solar energy research center received a $10 million state to install solar energy panels on 90 K-12 Florida schools that double as emergency shelters.
State officials awarded the funds from $126 million that Florida was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to invest in alternative energy projects.

The Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center will use about $8.5 million of the monies to install panels on schools statewide through the institute’s SunSmart Schools and E-Shelters Program, while using the remaining $1.5 million for education, training and administration.

In March, FSEC officials asked for bids from Florida schools for the installation of 10-kilowatt photovoltaic panels, designed to generate enough power to run an average home air conditioner. Schools will be selected based on demographics, emergency shelter needs, partnerships and existing renewable energy education and outreach plans. Only schools designated by the state as Enhanced Hurricane Protection Area shelters are eligible for the panels. The FSEC is expected to choose at least one school in each of the state’s 67 counties. Projects were scheduled to go out to bid after schools were selected in April.  
Once installed, the new solar systems would provide enough energy to power lighting, communications, and essential medical equipment. The solar systems feature a battery backup that can support critical energy needs in the case of an electrical power failure. 
The FSEC has installed 2- to 4-kilowatt panels at about 55 schools around the state. Additionally, the FSEC will provide operation and maintenance workshops for facility managers and support solar-energy education initiatives and renewable energy curriculum workshops aimed at students and teachers.
Solar installers hoping to participate in the program must be licensed electrical or solar contractors. All solar equipment purchased as part of the E-Shelters program must be American made. Installers request for quotes are due May 7, 2010 and installers will be selected by May 21.
More information on the SunSmart Schools and E-Shelter Program are available at www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/education/sunsmart/index.html.