Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) and Florida International University (FIU) have solidified a partnership to build a commercial-scale distributed solar power facility that will both generate electricity for FPL’s 4.8 million customers and serve as an innovative research operation.
The project includes the installation of more than 5,700 solar panels on 23 canopy-like structures that will be built this summer in the parking lot of the university’s Engineering Center. Using data from the 1.6 MW solar array, faculty and students from FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing will study the effects of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation on the electric grid in real-life South Florida conditions.
“This innovative solar project builds on FIU’s relationship with FPL, one that provides our students with unparalleled and unique training opportunities,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “Through this project, our engineering students will make a direct contribution to the growth of solar energy in our state, while gaining invaluable experience working side by side with professionals from one of the most forward-thinking utilities in the nation.”
Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL noted, “FPL is proud to be a leader in advancing solar energy in smart ways, making sure to keep costs low and reliability high for our customers. As the economics of solar continue to improve, we look forward to harnessing more and more energy from the sun. Our partnership with FIU is designed to help us manage solar power’s interaction with the greater electric grid as part of our commitment to reliably deliver affordable clean energy for all of our customers.”
FIU students have already begun gathering information to be used in their research, including historical weather data and energy production and usage patterns. The research will take Florida’s unique weather conditions into consideration and help determine the types of technology that may be needed to ensure the grid’s reliability is not negatively affected by fluctuations in solar PV production due to clouds, thunderstorms and other variables.