The 2009 Florida Energy Consortium Summit was held at the University of South Florida on Wednesday. It was organized to bring together energy experts in the State University System of Florida to share their energy-related research findings and promote future collaboration.
Dr. Yogi Goswami is a chemical engineering professor and co-director for the Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) at University of South Florida. He is doing research alongside CERC director Elias Stefanakos on Solar Thermal Power for Bulk Power and Distributed Generation. Goswami discussed the possibilities of implementing solar power throughout Florida.“Feed in law is where if you put solar power systems, photovoltaic systems, you put that electricity into the grid and you get paid a lot more than what you pay for the grid electricity. It’s so attractive that people would rather than put money in the bank, they would put money in that system. “
Goswami believes the US can do better than it has in the global race for energy independence. “See in the US, we have systems which are naturally very expensive. In China, that’s the biggest market right now for solar water heaters. There people can not afford as much as we can over here, so when people start putting solar water heaters over there, it can be done here also.”
Goswami discussed the possibility of a public utility such as Ganiesville Regional Utility financing solar hot water heaters. “Utilities can sell to other utilities at a much higher price. So, when you do that, the market will expand so much because everyone will want to have that. That brings manufacturers into the state. That brings salespeople and all of the employment associated with that- this was in Gainesville. They were the first utility in the country to put in Feed-in-Tariffs. That means if you put photovoltaic on your roof, and you feed that electricity back into the grid, you get 26 cents p kwh for your electricity, and that’s on top of all the federal and state incentives you can get. That’s so attractive that their program is already over-subscribed.”
Finding funds for researching new technology remains a challenge. “When the dept of energy zeroed out thermal energy storage budget, that means they were telling all the researchers, ‘this is not an area to focus on.’ For solar energy to really become meaningful in grid power, it has to have storage. Companies have started putting money-they’re putting billions of dollars now-but you know you can’t just develop things over night, so that’s a problem.”.
This Saturday the CERC at the University of South Florida is organizing the Tampa Bay’s Solar home tour, which aims to introduce communities to solar technologies and energy efficiency. It will begin at 10 AM at Research Park on campus. You can learn more at http://tampasolartour.blogspot.com.