Archive for April, 2009

Director’s Message: Purchase a Solar Hot Water Heater Today – Chinese Solar Hot Water Heaters Certified for Sale in Florida are Safe and Efficient (But Please, Buy “Made in Florida”)

Monday, April 27th, 2009

U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Mary Landrieu have introduced a resolution and bill pressing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall Chinese-made drywall and temporarily ban imports of the building material, as worries about the possible effects of the tainted product continue to grow.  The bill would ask the Consumer Product Safety Commission to impose the ban until it can create federal drywall safety standards.   It is clear that independent, third-party testing and certification has extensive value in the marketplace, especially for products such as drywall, solar water heating systems and solar electrical (photovoltaic) systems.  Independent, third-party certification provides not only protection for consumers, but also much needed consumer confidence.  Even more important, third-party certification provides protection to reputable manufacturers, ensuring that lower quality products, often from foreign markets, do not compete head-to-head with Florida and U.S. products unless they meet the same standards.  The state of Florida had the foresight to protect Florida in 1976 through Florida’s Solar Energy Standards Act of 1976 (§377.705 F.S.) which requires the Florida Solar Energy Center to certify that “all solar energy systems manufactured or sold in the state…meet the standards established by the center and…display accepted results of approved performance tests in a manner prescribed by the center.”

Governor Crist’s climate change agenda, many states passing “real renewable energy portfolio standards,” and skyrocketing electric prices have led to strong interest in solar hot water heating.  Residential electricity in Florida moved from 8 cents to 10 cents and then to 12 cents a kWh in January 2006. In the last several months, the price of electricity to some consumers in Florida has reached 15 cents a kWh!  The average Florida customer who used 1,250 kWh of electricity per month paid $120 in 2005 and $152 per month in 2008.  In 2009 they may be paying more than $160.  So, by doing nothing, the price has gone up $40 per month (33%) since 2005!

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Brevard Builder Takes the “Builders Challenge” – Media, public invited to tour new energy-efficient home at 2 p.m. April 25

Friday, April 24th, 2009

As homeowners cope with rising utility bills and declining income, the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) has responded to a challenge from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help produce homes 30 percent more energy efficient than typical new homes.

Additionally, these new homes will meet other stringent “quality criteria” for indoor air quality, durability and comfort set forth in DOE’s new Builders Challenge program (www.buildingamerica.gov/challenge).

The Builders Challenge is backed by two decades of research conducted by DOE’s Building America program (www.buildingamerica.gov) that proves this goal can be achieved cost-effectively all across the country. FSEC, located on the UCF Brevard campus in Cocoa, leads one of DOE’s Building America teams (www.baihp.org) and has worked with a dozen of the first builders to achieve the Builders Challenge.

FSEC researchers will co-host the unveiling of LifeStyle Homes’ first Builders Challenge home this Saturday, April 25, at 2 p.m. The public and home building community are invited to the event, which will include a tour and testing demonstrations. Look for signs in the Whispering Winds community off Dairy Road in West Melbourne. For directions, visit the LifeStyle Homes Web site: www.BuildingALifeStyle.com.

LifeStyle Homes SunSmart Energy Initiative logo

LifeStyle Homes' SunSmart models meet the DOE's Builders Challenge quality criteria.

LifeStyle Homes – based in Melbourne, Fla. – is the first Brevard County builder to achieve the Builders Challenge with its new line of SunSmartSM models. FSEC’s Building America researchers provided technical assistance and third-party certification to LifeStyle Homes, which is required by the Builders Challenge criteria.

“We are extremely proud of our collaboration with LifeStyle Homes,” says Dr. Subrato Chandra, FSEC’s Building America program director. “We look forward to many more of these high-performance Builders Challenge homes being built. We plan to work alongside LifeStyle Homes every step of the way as they work toward our mutual goal of building zero energy homes, which provide their total energy needs from the power of the sun.”

Larry Hufford, founding partner of LifeStyle Homes, echoes the thoughts of many Builders Challenge participants.

“Increasing the energy efficiency of our homes offers solid benefits to our customers,” Hufford said. “It helps them save on their monthly and annual energy bills, and it is the right thing for us to do in moving our country toward energy independence.”

For more information, contact
Neil Moyer, FSEC Building America researcher, 321-638-1409
Jake Luhn, LifeStyle Homes, 321- 727-8188 extension 303

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Energy Experts to Share Their Knowledge at Sunsational EarthFest

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Sunsational EarthFest, a new Earth Day event, will help residents learn about renewable energy, resource conservation and the environment in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

The University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) and the Brevard Community College Green Team will host the event on Saturday, April 18, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Everyone is invited, and admission is free.

Learn from the experts how to cut your energy costs without sacrificing comfort, the benefits of green roofs, the basics of solar energy and the latest research in alternative fuel technology. Tours of the center will also be offered.

Exhibitors and vendors will offer presentations, demonstrations and activities.
Solar energy, environmental and educational exhibits — including various types of alternative fuel vehicles — will be on display, and a farmer’s market will feature local organic food. Activities for kids include a bicycle rodeo, solar boat demonstrations, a bouncy house and face painting. In addition, the Middle School Science Bowl finalist teams will race their model hydrogen fuel cell cars.

The BCC Green Team will present free educational and environmental films, “Gimme Green,” “Who Killed the Electric Car?” and “Kilowatt Ours.” The BCC Planetarium and Observatory will present two showings of the movie “A Living Sea,” which is shown in IMAX, at a discounted rate of $3.

Sunsational EarthFest activities will be located throughout the north end of the Brevard Community College Cocoa Campus and at the Florida Solar Energy Center, 1679 Clearlake Road, Cocoa.

Sunsational EarthFest is sponsored by the Florida Solar Energy Center, the BCC Green Team, Bright House Networks, FLORIDA TODAY and SolarWorld.

For more information, call Susan Schleith at (321) 638-1017 or go to www.floridaenergycenter.org/go/earthfest.

Director’s Message: Energy Too Costly for Florida

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

While gasoline prices have recently dropped, electric costs are skyrocketing!  Gasoline for all of the 90s was about $1 a gallon, oil $18 a barrel, natural gas was $2 for a thousand cubic feet and residential electricity in Florida was 8 cents a kWh.  Gasoline at its peak last year was over $4, oil over $140 a barrel, and natural gas over $11 for a thousand cubic feet and residential electricity in Florida was 12 cents a kWh.  In the last several months, the price of electricity to some consumers in Florida has reached 15 cents per kWh.  The average Florida customer who used 1,250 kWh of electricity per month paid $120 in 2005 and $152 per month in 2008.  In 2009, the average customer will be paying more than $160.  So by doing nothing, the price has gone up more than $40 per month (33%) since 2005.  Some customers will be paying $188 per month, a $68 per month increase (50%) since 2005!

Alternative energy is called alternative, until it is cheaper, but cheaper than what? – electricity out of the wall at 12 cents yesterday, 15 cents today, 18 cents tomorrow?  Are you aware that people in the U.S. pay different amounts for electricity?  The average residential retail price of electricity in the U.S. was 10.6 cents per kWh in 2007.  Florida was 11.2 cents, most southern states were about 9 cents, WV 7 cents, UT 8 cents, NY and CT about 18 cents, and CA and NJ 15 cents.  So, states that burn coal have the cheapest electricity rates. Places like Utah and West Virginia burn their own coal, so even though they get all the pollution and the greenhouse gasses, at least they get to keep all their money, unlike Florida which ships more than $25 billion out of state to purchase fuel.  Florida has already been paying more for cleaner burning fossil fuels than the Southern states to our north.  We are now paying more for natural gas than we are for coal, and that price increase is more than what is being suggested to add to our electric bills for solar energy.

New Jersey has more solar than Florida because homeowners in NJ have a Renewable Portfolio Standard, and fees (collected into a Public Benefit Fund) are used to incentivize the homeowner for solar on their roof.  If such a fund collected $1.50 on your electric bill in Florida, we could have the equivalent of California’s Million Solar Roofs Program.  Clearly $1.50 is less than the $40 a month cost of doing nothing.  While solar water heating is cost effective today, solar electricity (photovoltaics) without a subsidy is not cost effective today, but the subsidy is still less than the cost of “accelerated cost recovery” for nuclear power.  What about the jobs?  These jobs will not be in China and India, they will be done by your neighbor.  Vote Solar estimates that more than 3,800 megawatts (MW) of solar could be added by 2020 and with it approximately 85,500 new jobs in Florida. What a great way to love your neighbor.

Jim Fenton, Director
Florida Solar Energy Center

Teachers Learn A Life-Saving Skill: How to Build a Solar Cooker

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

What does an umbrella, inner tube and mylar blanket have in common?  They are all components of innovative solar cooker designs.

Seventeen teachers came to the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cocoa this past Saturday, from as far away as Sarasota and Port St. Lucie, to learn how to build solar cookers.

Teachers learn how to construct solar cookers from everyday items such as an umbrella.

Teachers learn how to construct solar cookers from everyday items such as an umbrella.

Working in teams, the teachers constructed five different solar cookers.  Each design used common household items in creative ways, including an umbrella, inner tube, and plant stand, to name just a few.  Armed with new information, strategies and inspiration, these teachers will work with their students to build a variety of solar cookers.  The student-designed and built cookers will be on display at the Bright House Solar Energy Cook-off at FSEC’s EnergyWhiz Olympics on May 9. In Top Chef style, student teams will also submit a food cooked in their solar cooker to be judged by a panel of experts.
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