Florida SunSmart Program Receives $10 Million

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

Florida’sGovernor Charlie Crist recently announced the award of $10 million inAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) grants to theFSEC in Cocoa Beach for the SunSmart project. This award will provideopportunities for state agencies, local governments and businesses todeploy renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, resulting ineconomic development and job growth in Florida’s clean technologysector.

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

Through the SunSmartprogram, the FSEC has worked to increase the deployment of solar energysystems to schools and other public buildings in particular. There aretwo main parts to this new initiative, the E-Shelters (EmergencyShelters) and the SunSmart Schools program.

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

The E-Shelters program willprovide free solar energy systems of approximately 10kW to publicschools that have been designated by the state as Enhanced HurricaneProtection Area (EHPA) shelters. Nearly 800 schools in Florida arealready designated such shelters, so the selection process will behighly competitive.

The new solar electric systems, also knownas photovoltaic (PV) systems, will provide enough power for criticalenergy needs such as lighting, communications and essential medicalequipment. These system will feature a battery back-up that providespower to critical loads in the emergency shelter in the event ofelectrical power outage.

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

The secondpart of the SunSmart program, called SunSmartSchool, outfits selectedschools with a PV system for normal operating uses and provideseducational opportunities.

Elementary, middle, or senior highschools, vocational schools or colleges, and universities will also becompetitively selected to receive a 1 or 2-kilowatt (kW) demonstrationsystem. These systems can offset electricity costs to the school duringnormal operations and reduce greenhouse gases. Additionally, theSunSmart Schools program will not only provide the subsides solarenergy systems to public schools but also, the program will includeoperation and maintenance workshops for facility managers. They alsosupports solar-energy education initiatives for students and renewableenergy curriculum workshop training for teachers.

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

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

With the hope of protecting theenvironment for future generations, and educating Floridians the FSECcreated the SunSmart plan. Through this program, and by utilizingenergy efficient technologies the FSEC takes a step forward in aidingand in strengthening Florida’s economy by increasing its energyindependence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To move forward asrapidly as possible, they anticipate to have all systems installed byApril 20, 2012.

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