FAMU explores new solar power energy

Colleges and universities spend close to $2 billion each year on energy according to energystar.gov. Harnessing solar power however, is one way to reduce energy use and cost.

As a part of the SunSmart program, a 6kW solar photovoltaic ground mount was built at the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering. SunSmart is a Florida initiative to offer solar energy systems to schools and other public buildings. The solar electric system provides enough power for critical energy needs.

On Florida A&M’s main campus, Gibbs Hall is the only building that has solar panels, although they no longer operational.

“There are solar panels located on the roof top at the Gibbs Hall Dormitory Building,” said Kendall Jones, the FAMU physical plant director.  “The panels wererenovation, which was 1984.  However, this system is no longer operational.”

Unlike the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering, the Gibbs Hall solar panels are for water heating.  The panels reduce or eliminate hot water heating energy costs with a solar water heating system.

Solar power however, requires considerably high start up cost.

Jones said that FAMU has partnered with Siemens Building Technologies, Inc. to implement several alternative energy plans and conservation measures. These energy savings measures included lighting upgrades, pipe insulation, and steam trap replacements.

Clinton Smith, the electrical engineer for facilities planning and construction said that the future plan includes switching 40,000 light fixtures to reduced energy alternatives.

Once implemented, the upgrades are calculated to reduce C02 emissions by 4.5 million lbs., equivalent to planting nearly 15 acres of trees, according to Siemens.  Better management of heating, ventilation and air conditioning and lighting utilities will also result.

“I feel that they definitely should go in that direction, because that’s the way the world is moving towards, conserving more energy and a safer environment,” said Alain Justilien, a fourth year business administration student from Miami.

The partnership with Siemens is a $2.4 million contract for energy savings performance. Of the 156 buildings at FAMU, already four, the FAMU Developmental Research School, the Multipurpose Center Teaching Gym, the University Commons and Tucker Hall, feature sustainable elements under the contract.