It was a beautiful day to showcase solar energy. On Thursday, April 10, officials from Duke Energy and St. Petersburg College flipped the switch on the Seminole Campus’ array of solar photovoltaic panels, highlighting a collaboration that began with a $500,000 SunSense grant from the energy company.
“This partnership is a perfect fit,” said Seminole Provost Jim Olliver. “This project encourages students to get involved with solar energy and supports SPC’s commitment to sustainable design.”
SPC is the first and only state college to receive Duke Energy Florida’s SunSense Schools Post Secondary School Award. Previous recipients include the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida.
The energy company provided $515,803 for two solar installations at SPC – a 50 kW ground-mounted, free-standing structure on the Seminole Campus and a 50 kW array atop walkways at the Clearwater Campus. The installations join two other solar energy projects on SPC’s Clearwater Campus. Find out more about SPC’s use of solar energy and how students are involved.
“Through the SunSense program, this solar project at St. Petersburg College is playing a key role in our efforts to educate our customers on renewable energy production,” Joseph Pietrzak, Senior Program Manager for Duke Energy Florida.
LCD monitors on each campus show how much energy is produced by the arrays, and engineering and environmental technology students use the information for research. Since it was installed in December, the Seminole array has produced 18,488 kWh, enough to power 3.4 million smartphones, offset the use of 1,633 gallons of gasoline and power 770 electric cars. Follow the energy production and installation here.
“It’s going to be a new world,” said James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, created in 1975 by the Florida Legislature to serve as the state’s energy research institute. “This is no longer the most expensive way to make energy.”
Students from Lealman Intermediate School also attended the event and participated in educational solar activities. Students used handheld solar panels to power small motors and measure energy output.
“The young people here are going to be driving these vehicles powered by solar,” said Fenton, referring to the two alternative energy vehicles Duke brought to the event.
“My hope is that other students, current and future, will be inspired to learn more about solar energy and build a better future,” said SPC student Gentian Kruja, president of the Student Chapter of The Florida Engineering Society at SPC. After he graduates next month, Kruja plans to attend the University of Central Florida to study computer engineering.
“Through the data collected, students are not only learning about how different conditions of weather and seasons can affect the energy produced, but also how energy efficiencies are determined,” said Morgan Fouss, who will receive her A.S. degree in Environmental Science Technology from SPC next month and plans to attend law school. “We’re glad this investment was made on our campus and hope it’s just one more step in making SPC and specifically the Seminole Campus a model for sustainability practices.”