Florida Students, Faculty Compete In U.S. Energy Solar Decathlon 2011

As part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, Team Florida has spent nearly two years working on its entry: the FleX House.

Based on a design by a partnership between the University of South Florida (USF), Florida State University (FSU), the University of Florida (UF) and the University of Central Florida (UCF), the FleX House is jam-packed with the latest cutting-edge, energy-efficient technology complete with moving parts that can easily adapt to different site situations and plan configurations; a $20,000 photovoltaic (PV) array was even recently installed onto the roof of the 1,000-square-foot building.

“Systems such as the solar array are opportunities to show society that we can make the right steps toward sustainability,” says Justin Vandenbroeck, a FSU engineering major who acted as an engineer on the project. “We aren't relying on fossil fuels to produce our energy -- instead we're harnessing the power of the sun that's been shining on us as long as we've existed. It's a common misunderstanding that solar energy is a futuristic idea that isn't practical, but it's actually very feasible.”

More than 50 students and faculty have worked on the $200,000 FleX House project behind the Beck Group's headquarters in downtown Tampa, at 220 W. 7th Ave. Donations and in-kind services from businesses throughout Florida such as Solar Ray, Prosolar Systems and SolarWorld USA -- a company where Vandenbroeck interned -- provided funds for the Solar Decathlon entry.

“Our objective was to design and build a solar-powered house that is not only energy efficient but cost effective as well,” says Vandenbroeck. “This event is an opportunity for students of all majors to express their visions on a large scale and really show the change they want to see.”

In order to participate in the Solar Decathlon on September 14 in Washington, D.C., the FleX house must be dismantled for transportation and reassembled before the competition where it will be judged against a variety of 18 houses for the title of the most energy efficient in the world.

“By investing in solar energy, you’re not only investing in energy independence in our country, but you are investing in a green economy and creating jobs right here at home,” says Vandenbroeck. “The sun isn’t going to stop shining anytime soon, so let’s take advantage of it.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Justin Vandenbroeck, Florida State University
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