Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday

2manytoyz2manytoyz Solar Expert Posts: 373 ✭✭✭
Pics available at this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4874754872688.2198267.1411944285&type=1&l=58d098c41f

Interesting presentation and tour of their facility. Their main focus appears to be on designing green homes, or retrofitting older homes. They had some actual homes on their campus that were fully instrumented and automated. They had heat lamps, fans, TVs, showers, oven, dishwasher, etc., that would turn on/off at set times to simulate a family inside the home. They could then try various methods and products to reduce the energy needed.

In one of their labs, they were developing methods to make flexible solar panels. Another lab produced hydrogen from biomass. Another lab tested fuel cells to find out what temperatures, humidity, etc., were optimal, and which would damage them. In an outside building, they had a number of water heaters. All the common types, and even made their own hybird types, such as using solar heated water to feed an on-demand type water heater.

One of the most interesting things there was a building (size of the average home) that was cooled with a tiny 1.5 ton split system. It was powered by a 2000 Watt array (which only puts out an actual 1600W), a 300 AH battery bank, and an inverter. In a typical FL home, the big A/C system cools the house down relatively quickly, then cycles off. It will do this multiple times per hour. With this system, the A/C basically runs continuously, but at a very low power level. At night, it will continue to operate on battery power as necessary. During the day, the array will recharge the battery bank, and operate the A/C. A typical home here has about 55% humidity inside. This facility was actually down to 45% since it's operating longer per day. The outside condensor unit was whisper quiet.

To me, the Holy Grail of solar in FL is the A/C system. Sure, lights, TV, computers, washing machine, etc., all can run from a basic solar system. But no way could you run a central A/C system via solar. Well, you can now, and they're doing it. Then they went one step further. They have put these systems in actual homes and have realtime data online. They pulled up a home on the computer to show how well it's performing.

They aren't testing batteries yet, but might get a contract to do so soon.

The only fault I could give them is I'd like to see them do more of an educational outreach. This was the first tour since 2009. I live 15 minutes away from their facility, and have looked at their website before, but only knew a fraction of all they've done, and are doing. The tour only consisted of about 20-25 people. Four of which are folks I invited. I received an email at work and really surprised the turn out wasn't better. Hey, they even had free subs and cookies!

It sounds like they may be offering more tours in the near future. If you're interested, their website is here: http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/
The point of contact is [email protected]

Oh, and a side note, one of their products they've helped develop is Gossamer ceiling fans. Turns out, I have two of their fans in my house! http://www.gossamerwind.com/content/what-so-special-about-these-fans-0

Comments

  • inetdoginetdog Solar Expert Posts: 3,123 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday
    2manytoyz wrote: »
    Oh, and a side note, one of their products they've helped develop is Gossamer ceiling fans. Turns out, I have two of their fans in my house! http://www.gossamerwind.com/content/what-so-special-about-these-fans-0

    The Gossamer series looks good for small :-) fans.
    Offered without further comment, with a claimed CFM/watt figure which is twice that of the Gossamer series, but taking a lot more space (72" diameter compared to 52" diameter is this fan with DC motor and remote control.
    SMA SB 3000, old BP panels.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,015 admin
    Re: Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday

    What brand/model off AC?

    Would be neat if they documented the off grid home fully.

    Would be a nice blog article here.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • TheBackRoadsTheBackRoads Solar Expert Posts: 274 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday

    That's so cool. I know where I should have gone to school/found a job :roll:
  • 2manytoyz2manytoyz Solar Expert Posts: 373 ✭✭✭
    Re: Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday
    BB. wrote: »
    What brand/model off AC?

    Would be neat if they commented the off grid home fully.

    Would be a nice blog article here.

    -Bill

    I did find one of their reports here: http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/publications/pdf/FSEC-RR-383-12.pdf LOTS of detail in it. Section 15.10 of the report covers one their "Very High-Efficiency Mini-Split".

    This was different than the one we saw at the test facility on campus. But both the one on campus, and the one in the article linked above, were Fujitsu systems.
  • rollandelliottrollandelliott Solar Expert Posts: 834 ✭✭
    Re: Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday

    they have a lot of useful information on their web site, but my sister had to pay them $550 to get her solar system certified. $200 for them to rubber stamp the solar panels she was using (they did not test them, just looked at paper work) and $350 to review a 3 wire diagram.

    Sorry but after that experience, I just see them as governmental red tape. If they really wanted to promote solar they would not be charging fees like that for doing the same work the local codes and building dept. does.
  • 2manytoyz2manytoyz Solar Expert Posts: 373 ✭✭✭
    Re: Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday
    they have a lot of useful information on their web site, but my sister had to pay them $550 to get her solar system certified. $200 for them to rubber stamp the solar panels she was using (they did not test them, just looked at paper work) and $350 to review a 3 wire diagram.

    Sorry but after that experience, I just see them as governmental red tape. If they really wanted to promote solar they would not be charging fees like that for doing the same work the local codes and building dept. does.

    I can't defend the FSEC. I don't know the actual specifics of your issue with them. But I can tell you it's a HUGE facility, FSEC goes far beyond the BCC campus I visited. Many locations. They also have many departments, and the group that deal with certifications is but a small fraction of the entire group. I wouldn't paint the entire group with the same brush.

    If you go get any permits in FL now, the regulations have changed. Many things now require an architect stamp, which costs a LOT of money, even on a simple garage mod. They simply review the drawing (didn't make it), and tack on many hundreds for that rubber stamp. That's the new law, it sucks, but it is what it is.

    I don't know if that's the same sort of scenario your sister went through, but regulation types of things usually have little to do with the geeks that do the research and hands on testing I was talking with. While they obviously charge for some services, they offer a vast resource of FREE information.
  • rollandelliottrollandelliott Solar Expert Posts: 834 ✭✭
    Re: Toured the Florida Solar Energy Center yesterday

    Yep had to pay $300 for Professional Engineer wet stamps on a drawing as well. Building permit fee was over $400. Ironically FSEC's $550 fee was the highest and required the least amount of work.

    One things for sure, there is no shortage of fees when doing a solar install.

    The whole priority is messed up, the biggest energy hog in Florida is HVAC, yet 90% plus of florida homes have HVAC ducting in the attic resulting in 15 to 20% energy inefficiency, costing thousand of dollars over the life span of ownership.

    I wanted to install radiant barrier, but it was just too darn hot in the attic.

    The fix is so simple and cheap, just don't put ducts in attic, costs around $500 more up front. Too bad it it not easily fixed in exsisiting construction. As much as I love solar, it's too expensive for most, but $500 is something most home owners can afford.

    The building codes should be changed to prevent new construction from being energy hogs.
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