Florida SunSmart Schools Use Ample Supply of Sunshine to Light Classrooms
and Spark Imaginations
|Philip Fairey, FSEC Interim Director, gives
address at Walker Middle School's ribbon cutting, Odessa,
(Photo credit: Jennifer Szaro)
The Florida Solar Energy Center is administering the “SunSmart
Schools” program, a partnership between the Department of
Environmental Protection/Florida Energy Office (DEP/FEO) and the
state’s electric utilities and other industry partners;
the program installs photovoltaic (solar electric) systems in
schools throughout the state. Florida SunSmart Schools take advantage
of their location in a state with an ample supply of free sunshine
to light classrooms and spark the imaginations of their students.
The pilot version of the program was initially funded at $750,000
from DEP/FEO to subsidize the installation of 29 systems throughout
the state. The funds supported program development and monitoring
activities as well as the PV hardware costs. The maximum allowable
rebate per system was $25,000. Public or private K-12 schools,
community colleges, universities and vocational schools with internet
access and an appropriate roof or ground location for the installation
of a PV system may apply for rebate funds. Schools can team up
with their local electric utility, organizations within the local
community, commercial and residential customers or corporate sponsors
to raise the additional funds for each system.
The program is designed to foster long-term interest and market
expansion of solar energy by exposing students, teachers and the
local community to functional PV systems in a learning environment.
Thousands of students and teachers across Florida are learning
about the important role that solar energy can play in meeting
a portion of the state’s electricity demand, promoting local
economic development and providing energy security and a clean
environment for future generations.
The SunSmart Schools program also provides a significant and readily
accessible source of performance and economic data via the internet
that students can access and analyze as a component of existing
FSEC also provides students and teachers with an educational
activity kit, web-based learning activities and lesson plans that
correlate with state science and mathematics educational standards.
FSEC’s Susan Schleith, James Haggard and Penny Hall coordinated
regional teacher training workshops throughout the state to provide
support to educators utilizing the kit materials and website as
part of their teaching curriculum.
A number of FSEC staff members also assisted with quality assurance
and technical support. Jennifer Szaro, the SunSmart Schools Program
Manager, with other FSEC staff, developed a list of quality control
measures that were then incorporated into the requirements for
participation. These included a 5-year service agreement for the
system, an acceptance test requirement, a cost summary breakdown,
the submittal of permits and interconnection documentation and
a monitoring agreement with the school. Additionally, Donard Metzger,
William Wilson and Jim Dunlop installed and currently maintain
all data acquisition equipment. The monitoring equipment allows
FSEC staff to pinpoint system failures and respond quickly to
system owners about maintenance requirements or system failures
that might require site visits.
Some schools were considered for selection to participate in
the program, since they were designated primary First Aid shelters
in the event of a local disaster. Solar power can take on vital
importance if normal electricity service becomes unavailable.
In the event of a local emergency, the system will generate electricity
produced by the solar system which is diverted to the school to
operate lighting and other necessities. During normal conditions,
the renewable energy produced by the PV system is distributed
to the company’s grid.
The PV systems also provide an on-site laboratory for students
to learn more about solar power and the benefits of energy conservation.
Each installed system includes monitoring technology that collects
weather and system performance data, and allows students and the
public to view collected data over the internet at www.energywhiz.com.
Continued annual funding for the program is expected at $500,000,
which will be used to subsidize the cost to install about 25 systems
You can view the database showing participating schools and data
collected by each school at http://securedb.fsec.ucf.edu/pv/list.