The University of Central Florida is reducing its energy costs and promoting renewable energy thanks to the installation of a 107-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

Progress Energy Florida awarded UCF the panels under its SunSense Schools solar energy program. UCF was one of 10 schools – and the only university – selected last summer to receive a no-cost solar-panel installation.

Through SunSense Schools, Progress Energy supports the expansion of renewable energy and promotes energy education. UCF was selected as the program’s first university participant based on its commitment to offering students energy education and resource tools, among other considerations.

“As a longtime partner in energy education and development, the University of Central Florida has demonstrated its firmly held commitment to paving the way to a cleaner, more efficient energy future,” said Gary Freeman, general manager of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for Progress Energy. “Progress Energy is pleased to support UCF’s adoption of solar technology through the SunSense Schools program.”

UCF’s PV array consists of 448 solar panels. The panels were installed in fall 2011 and are located on the south lawn adjacent to Garage B, across from the Recreation and Wellness Center.

The PV system enables UCF to capture the sun’s rays and turn them into energy to help reduce electricity costs. The panels have a fixed southern exposure at a 20-degree tilt to maximize daily solar collection. The system is connected to the garage’s utility electric grid, which supplements electricity during normal operations.

The ground-mounted system has been generating energy to power the four-floor parking structure since March. The panels have already created nearly 35,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of energy, which is used to help power the garage’s lights.

The panels are expected to generate about 157,000 kwh a year. By comparison, the average home uses between 1,000 to 1,200 kwh per month.

The energy produced by the panels provides more than half of the total power used in the parking facility, with estimated yearly savings of more than $15,000.

“As a university, our long-term goal is to be able to produce 15 percent of our energy needs with renewable energy sources within the next decade,” said David Norvell, UCF’s executive director of Facilities. “A ground-mounted system of this size is a first for our campus. Providing more than half of the garage’s power requirements will not only reduce campus greenhouse gas emissions, but also yield significant cost savings.”

UCF and Progress Energy have partnered on solar panels before, adding PV panels to the southeast wall of the Engineering I building in early 2009. The panels provide 11.2 kw of power, which is used to supplement the building’s electricity.

The latest PV panel installation reasserts UCF’s commitment to green initiatives and supports the Climate Action Plan, an ambitious guide that the university is taking to become climate neutral by 2050.

The environment and global-climate change also are UCF’s undergraduate unifying theme. The topic was selected by students and is weaved into courses by faculty, allowing students to reflect on the theme and its impact on their lives and on the planet. Outside the classroom, there are workshops, forums and activities that also focus on protecting the planet and promoting climate change.

For more information on UCF’s sustainability efforts, go to