Florida International University (FIU) and Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) have unveiled a new commercial-scale solar installation at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing – the only solar research facility of its kind that FPL has installed at a Florida university.
The 1.4 MW solar array consists of more than 4,400 panels on canopy-like structures that provide clean electricity to FPL’s grid and shade for about 400 parking spaces. The solar array incorporates a 24′ x 12′ FIU logo that is visible from high above.
Engineering faculty and students from the Energy, Power & Sustainability (EPS) program at FIU will use the installation to conduct research FPL says will help the utility advance solar energy in the state.
Through a five-year research grant, faculty and students are analyzing data from the on-site solar panels to understand the impacts of intermittent solar power on the electric grid in South Florida’s tropical climate. The researchers will also look at historic weather patterns and develop predictive models to forecast the reliability of solar power generation.
“This research project builds on our long-standing relationship with FPL,” states FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We’re engaging in groundbreaking, problem-solving research to address the challenges of our region and beyond. Our students will get hands-on experience and see how the research they conduct in the lab will have an impact in the real world – gaining skills that will help them compete for high-tech 21st-century jobs. This solar power facility is a win-win for FIU, FPL and our community.”
Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, adds, “Through this innovative partnership, we will continue to make our energy infrastructure even smarter. The faculty and students working on this project are contributing to our state’s energy future – a future that includes more solar power.”
FIU researchers are looking closely at Florida’s climate as part of their research.
“Solar power depends on the sun for fuel, and with South Florida’s tropical weather conditions, the amount of sun can vary greatly from one moment to the next,” explains Arif Sarwat, a professor serving as director of the FIU and FPL Solar Research Facility. “In Florida, where sunshine can vary moment to moment, our team is researching how intermittent power generation impacts the grid with an eye toward a better understanding of how to best leverage solar power.”