Proposal of Energy for the University of Florida

1.0 Abstract

The proposal recommends what can be used, by the University of Florida, to cut its exorbitant costs on power. The institution is large and consumes a lot of energy, which translates to high costs of electricity. Saving could be done by use of solar panels as alternative sources of power to replace electricity. The energy saving plan will be used, by the University of Florida, to set up solar panels to provide energy, and reduce environmental pollution. The solar panels will be placed in the fields off campus for better performance since there is direct exposure to sunlight. The power created from the project will be converted and transferred to the university use of inverters. This will significantly save the University of Florida, and the government money, as well as protecting the environment.

2.0 Problem Statement

As a university with a large student body and campus, the University of Florida (UF) is a fairly large consumer of the approximately $14 billion of energy that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates is used by educational institutes in the United States every year. Such a staggering number is even more impressive when one accounts for the fact that it represents over 12% of the commercial energy use in the country. Further, rising energy costs have been identified as a factor in increasing tuition and fees for student.

Another alarming statistic to consider when talking about energy is the rising cost thereof. In 2012, the price of electricity increased by more than 2%, which may not seem like a large amount, but for an average household means $3 more a month. For larger consumers of energy, such as the University of Florida, it could mean much, much more.

In the 2010-2011 fiscal years, the State University System of Florida (SUS), a system which includes the Florida Gulf Coast University, University of West Florida, Florida State University, University of North Florida, University of South Florida, University of Florida, Florida A&M University and several other state universities spent $221,913,928 on utilities. The University of Florida alone used 440.2 kWh worth of energy, totaling to an approximate energy cost of $26 million.

This year, the SUS is facing another year of severe budgetary cuts: the Florida legislature has cut its total operating funds by 25%. In the upcoming year, the University of Florida will have to distribute the $36.5 million worth of cuts across its Education and General budget, which includes utility costs.

While the university’s Sustainable UF program has been able to implement some programs that help curb energy costs by encouraging a more conservation behavior towards energy, there have been few or no attempts to address the energy cost problem at the source.

Another concern that is often raised when talking about energy consumption is the so-called “carbon footprint,” which is the total amount of greenhouse gases caused by an entity, in this case the University of Florida. The Sustainable UF initiative estimates that around 30-40% of UF’s carbon footprint comes from everyday energy usage. A total of 75% comes from overall energy consumption. If UF is able to cut down on energy consumption or produce its own renewable energy, the university would be capable of minimizing on its carbon footprint and thus reduce its strain on the environment. 

Hence, installing solar panels on campus to generate electricity would alleviate both budgetary and environmental problems the university is facing with respect to energy consumption.

3.0 Plan of Action

The plan to cut costs for the University of Florida is to introduce Solar Panel technology to offset the costs of the massive amounts of electricity that the University uses annually. In order to use this technology, a plan had to be set on the course of action that will be taken to implement solar panel technology.

3.1 Location

We will start this plan by choosing a location that will meet the needs. The location of the solar panels will be in an agricultural field off-campus. The field is located at the intersection of southeast Williston road and the corner of southwest 23rd street.

This location was chosen because there are not any obstructions that could decrease the amount of light shining on the solar panels.

3.2 Size of Solar Panels

The dimensions of the field are 400 meters by 200 meters for a combined area of 80,000 square meters. The solar panels themselves will be large enough to contain thirty-six individual PV (Photovoltaic) cells. Each PV cell measures four inches by four inches.

Each solar panel will be forty inches by twenty inches, and there will be four solar panels in each panel assembly, and nine panel assemblies in every one hundred meter by one hundred meter section.

The nine panel assemblies will measure out one hundred meters by one hundred meters and there will be seventy-two of these panel assemblies total in the field, which measures four hundred meters by two hundred meters.  Below is a depiction of what our solar panel will look like as well as what the solar panel assembly will look like although we will only have four solar panels per solar panel assembly (Maeda, 2011).

To be able to know how much this will cost, the plan must include how many PV cells will be required to fill up this field. Most panels have the specification that shows the maximum output that is produced at given conditions (Maeda, 2011). For this panel we will be using we will need thirty-two PV cells and they will be set up in eight rows of four. Thirty-two PV cells in each panel, four panels in each panel assembly, and seventy-two panel assemblies combine for a total of 9,216 PV cells in the field.

3.3 Power Output

To figure out the power output of this field we will need to determine how many solar panels will be used. Solar PV panels are normally priced in dollars per watt. In 2010, the national average cost of solar PV was $7.62 per watt.

We will have 9,216 PV cells in the entire field, and the total cost before taxes and the installation is $70,225.92. Therefore, we will need to utilize around 288 panels.

To determine how much money this project will save the University of Florida, in electricity costs, we will need to determine how much power this solar field will produce. A single PV cell, no matter how large or small, will only put out half a volt. Watt output is equal to volts multiplied by amps. These panels will contain 32 individual solar cells. Per four inch by four inch PV cell on the solar panel, there is 0.89 watts of power being produced. This was found by multiplying the volts, which there are only 0.5 volts per PV cell, by the 1.78 amps that the cell produces. So for every panel with 32 PV cells, each panel will produce 28.48 watts (Maeda, 2011). We will have 4 panels in each panel assembly so each panel assembly will produce 113.92 watts (4panels x 28.48), and we will have 72 panel assemblies totaling 288 panels for a grand total of 8,202.24 watts produced in this field.

3.4 Transfer Power

To transfer power from the field off-campus to the University of Florida this project will need to purchase commercial grade power inverters, 30kilowatt inverters should suffice as this would be three times the necessary amount needed for safe operation, but would also give ample room for expansion in the event that this project receives additional funding.

The power inverter will receive the power from the field and convert it from AC to DC, which will allow it to be used in the buildings. If the University of Florida felt it was an option, it could also even sell the power back to the utility companies.

4.0 Budget

Energy production

Energy production per panel

28.48 Watts

Energy production per panel assembly

113.92 Watts

Total number of panel assemblies


Total number of panels


Total energy production

8,202.24 Watts


Price of PV cells

$7.62/Watt (2010 average)

Total number of PV cells


Total Wattage


Total PV cell cost


Tax and grant incentives

Sales tax exemption


Expected state contribution*


Total incentives

$50,000 + sales tax

Other costs

Estimated labor cost*


Building permits*

Up to $10,000



Total other costs


Total estimated expenditures: approximately $110,350

Total estimated state contribution: $50,000

Total cost after state contribution: $160,350


The expected state contribution was based on the $8.5 million contribution to the FGCU solar farm project, which covered around 75% of the total cost of the project.

The estimated labor cost was based on the fact that the average labor cost accounts for 30% of the cost of the project.

The cost of building permit was based on the average household building permit for a 1-5 kW solar panel system. It costs on average $2500, and the project in question is four times as large.

5.0 Evaluation Plan

The success of the project will be calculated according to the amount of money saved the energy produced, and the effect on society. Around 288 solar panels will be needed, which will cost $70,225.92, before the installation is done. A total of 8,202.24 watts will be produced from the project while the university needs only 440.2 kilowatts. The project will cost around $40,100, which is higher than the annual energy consumption that stands at $26 million. However, once the project is running, there will be no extra costs on energy, unless on maintenance. The extra energy can be used to enhance innovation in the university or to supply the other members of State University System of Florida. Progress reports will be used, by the funding agency, to evaluate the project, in order to examine its viability. Use of solar panels will save the university and government a lot of money, and provide reliable, environment friendly power.

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