Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Florida SunSmart Program Receives $10 Million

The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) was created by the Florida Legislature in 1975 to serve as the state’s energy research institute. The FSEC strives to bring energy independence to the state of Florida by conducting research, testing and certifying solar systems and developing educational programs. One of the latest initiatives to be implemented by the FSEC is the SunSmartSchool and E-Shelters Program.

Florida's Governor Charlie Crist recently announced the award of $10 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) grants to the FSEC in Cocoa Beach for the SunSmart project. This award will provide opportunities for state agencies, local governments and businesses to deploy renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, resulting in economic development and job growth in Florida’s clean technology sector.

The SunSmart program award, is a portion of the $126 million the state received in State Energy Program funding for energy-related initiatives under the ARRA.

Through the SunSmart program, the FSEC has worked to increase the deployment of solar energy systems to schools and other public buildings in particular. There are two main parts to this new initiative, the E-Shelters (Emergency Shelters) and the SunSmart Schools program.

As part of the E-Shelters program administered by the FSEC, at least 90 schools will be selected to serve as emergency shelters and will benefit from the SunSmart program. Schools will be selected based on demographics, emergency shelter needs, partnerships and existing renewable energy education and outreach plans.

The E-Shelters program will provide free solar energy systems of approximately 10kW to public schools that have been designated by the state as Enhanced Hurricane Protection Area (EHPA) shelters. Nearly 800 schools in Florida are already designated such shelters, so the selection process will be highly competitive.

The new solar electric systems, also known as photovoltaic (PV) systems, will provide enough power for critical energy needs such as lighting, communications and essential medical equipment. These system will feature a battery back-up that provides power to critical loads in the emergency shelter in the event of electrical power outage.

Ideally, at least one school shelter will be selected in each of the 67 counties in Florida. Obviously, some counties will get more than one school outfitted with a solar electric system. The locations chosen to receive a PV system will be selected based on the strength of each school’s application.

The second part of the SunSmart program, called SunSmartSchool, outfits selected schools with a PV system for normal operating uses and provides educational opportunities.

Elementary, middle, or senior high schools, vocational schools or colleges, and universities will also be competitively selected to receive a 1 or 2-kilowatt (kW) demonstration system. These systems can offset electricity costs to the school during normal operations and reduce greenhouse gases. Additionally, the SunSmart Schools program will not only provide the subsides solar energy systems to public schools but also, the program will include operation and maintenance workshops for facility managers. They also supports solar-energy education initiatives for students and renewable energy curriculum workshop training for teachers.

While there are a number of requirements that must be met in order for schools to be eligible to participate in this program, the application deadline for schools is March 29th, 2010. Following the receipt of the applications, after a review process, schools that have been chosen to participate in the program will be notified by April 9th of this year.

Similarly, there are requirements that must be met for system installers and component manufactures to participate. For instance, installers must be licensed electrical or solar contractors and all solar equipment purchased as part of the E-Shelters program must comply with the Act popularly known as the "Buy American" Act (41 U.S.C. 10a-10c). All solar equipment vendors must also comply with sections 2 through 4 of the Act of March 3, 1933. Furthermore, it is the sense of the Congress that, to the greatest extent practicable, all equipment and products purchased with funds made available under this Agreement should be American-made. Installers should also take note that their request for quotes (RFQ's) will be due May 7th, 2010 and selected installers will be notified May 21st.

With the hope of protecting the environment for future generations, and educating Floridians the FSEC created the SunSmart plan. Through this program, and by utilizing energy efficient technologies the FSEC takes a step forward in aiding and in strengthening Florida's economy by increasing its energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To move forward as rapidly as possible, they anticipate to have all systems installed by April 20, 2012.

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