USF's solar-powered house will soon be a reality in Tampa listen08/16/11 Andrea Lypka
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A team of Florida students has been chosen as a finalist for a green design competition. Their entry, called FLeX House, is a solar-powered home that uses no net energy located near downtown Tampa.
Tampa’s green home is one of 20 international projects that will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition this fall. Team Florida’s adviser is Stanley Russell, the director of the University of South Florida’s Design/Build Program in the School of Architecture. He says that such solar-powered homes can be soon common in Florida.
“We hope that they are starting to catch on more and the economics of it, even in my cursory knowledge, I know that prices are coming down. It is becoming more economical to put solar panels on your home. This is a very timely project for Florida to build people’s awareness about solar panels,” he said.
Some green technology can be expensive, but there are other variables to consider in a building’s cost, including the size of the house and the type of solar panels.
“The prize on panels has gone down so much. It used to be a long time ago when people were saying that there is a 20 year payback to have solar panel but I don’t think that is anymore the case. We are probably down to 8 to 10 years now. Those numbers are closing down a lot,” he said.
Jacob Moberg, a recent USF graduate, is part of Team Florida and is one of the engineers working on the FleX House. He says this week USF students will install a 5 Volt solar photovoltaic array on the roof.
“The solar panels we have are obviously designed to make up the difference of our energy. The concept of the house is to reduce the amount of energy consumption total. With our solar panels and a couple of other technologies, we were able to have the house be at net zero,” Moberg said.
The solar panels are part of their overall strategy for a green home, but there are other technologies including a design suited to hot and humid climates and passing cooling. Moberg says that combining technologies to get a bigger net impact also means more savings.
“As different technologies come down in cost, you can begin to see more people adopting these technologies. And a lot of it too is education,” he said.
A number of green technologies have been developed at USF.
“We have a window solar technology where you can see out and the window can still generate electricity. We have recently opened a Global Sustainable College at USF and the first graduate in class just graduated. USF is really taking in charge, especially with this project, being a leader and showing the community what green is and how can be used,” he said.
Moberg says that a house like this could be mass produced, further reducing costs. After the Solar Decathalon, the FleX House will be disassembled and shipped to USF to become part of a research center that is open to the public.
“It will be really great to have the community see what we have been working on and get them excited about it,” he said.
For more information about the project visit the FleX House website.