FIU and FPL unveil one-of-a-kind solar research facility

Solar array powers the grid while research initiative will help further advance solar generation in Florida

MIAMI, April 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- FIU and Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today unveiled a new commercial-scale solar installation at FIU's College of Engineering and Computing - the only solar research facility of its kind that FPL has installed at a Florida university.


The 1.4-megawatt solar array is comprised of more than 4,400 solar panels on canopy-like structures that provide clean electricity to FPL's grid and shade for about 400 parking spaces. The unique solar array incorporates a 24-foot by 12-foot FIU logo that is visible from high above.

Engineering faculty and students from the Energy, Power & Sustainability (EPS) program at FIU will use the installation to conduct important research that will help FPL advance solar energy in the state.

Through a five-year research grant, faculty and students are analyzing data from the on-site solar panels to understand the impacts of intermittent solar power on the electric grid in South Florida's tropical climate. The researchers will also look at historic weather patterns and develop predictive models to forecast the reliability of solar power generation.

"This research project builds on our long-standing relationship with FPL," said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. "We're engaging in groundbreaking, problem-solving research to address the challenges of our region and beyond. Our students will get hands-on experience and see how the research they conduct in the lab will have an impact in the real world - gaining skills that will help them compete for high tech 21st century jobs. This solar power facility is a win-win for FIU, FPL, and our community."

FPL is the state's largest generator of solar energy and operates three utility-scale, or universal, solar plants in Florida. The company is constructing three new 74.5-megawatt solar energy centers that will cost-effectively triple its solar capacity by the end of 2016.

"We work hard every day to deliver our customers electricity that is among the cleanest and most reliable in the county for a price well below the national average," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "Through this innovative partnership, we will continue to make our energy infrastructure even smarter. The faculty and students working on this project are contributing to our state's energy future - a future that includes more solar power."

FIU researchers are looking closely at Florida's climate as part of their research.

"Solar power depends on the sun for fuel and with South Florida's tropical weather conditions the amount of sun can vary greatly from one moment to the next," said Arif Sarwat, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who serves as director of the FIU and FPL Solar Research Facility and EPS. "In Florida, where sunshine can vary moment to moment, our team is researching how intermittent power generation impacts the grid with an eye toward a better understanding of how to best leverage solar power."

For more than three decades, FPL and FIU have partnered on various projects. In addition to hundreds of FPL employees who are FIU alumni, the energy company runs an on-campus customer care training center where students answer calls from customers. FPL also donated an electric vehicle from its clean fleet to FIU's College of Engineering and Computing to further research and test wireless charging technology.

Besides conducting research on wireless charging, EPS students also work at the FPL laboratories every week to conduct high-end experiments and research on batteries and access points.

"This project further demonstrates FIU's commitment to working with FPL to help prepare our students for addressing society's needs for renewable energy," said Ranu Jung, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. "Our faculty and students are engaged in research related to multiple facets of power generation, and this partnership will help strengthen their contributions to making solar energy viable and economical."

About College of Engineering and Computing:
The College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) at Florida International University is the 19th largest engineering program in the country.. It has two schools - OHL School of Construction and School of Computing and Information Sciences - and four departments - Biomedical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical and Materials Engineering. Nearly 6,000 students are currently pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees at the college. CEC is #1 in the continental U.S. for graduating Hispanic engineers, #5 for African-American, and #49 for women. Of its total enrollment, 19 percent are first-generation students, 38 percent are Pell Grant recipients, and 19 percent are female. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Higher Education Research and Development rankings placed CEC #91 out of 383 institutions. The faculty includes 14 NSF CAREER Awardees, three National Academy of Inventor members and fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Engineering faculty were recently awarded the National Hazard Engineering Research Infrastructure designation from NSF for FIU's Wall of Wind.

About FIU:
Florida International University is recognized as a Carnegie engaged university. It is a public research university with colleges and schools that offers more than 180 bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in fields such as engineering, computer science, international relations, architecture, law and medicine. As one of South Florida's anchor institutions, FIU contributes $8.9 billion each year to the local economy. FIU is Worlds Ahead in finding solutions to the most challenging problems of our time. FIU emphasizes research as a major component of its mission. FIU has awarded over 200,000 degrees and enrolls more than 54,000 students in two campuses and three centers including FIU Downtown on Brickell, FIU@I-75, and the Miami Beach Urban Studios. FIU's Medina Aquarius Program houses the Aquarius Reef Base, a unique underwater research facility in the Florida Keys. FIU also supports artistic and cultural engagement through its three museums: Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. FIU is a member of Conference USA and has over 400 student-athletes participating in 18 sports. For more information about FIU, visit http://www.fiu.edu/

Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving more than 4.8 million customer accounts or more than 10 million people across nearly half of the state of Florida. FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30 percent lower than the latest national average and, in 2015, was the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the sixth year in a row. FPL's service reliability is better than 99.98 percent, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all utilities nationwide. The company was recognized in 2015 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Market Strategies International. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,800 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, ethics and diversity, and has been ranked No. 1 in the electric and gas utilities industry in Fortune's 2016 list of "World's Most Admired Companies." NextEra Energy is also the parent company of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world's largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun. For more information, visit these websites: www.NextEraEnergy.com, www.FPL.com, www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.

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