Energy Companies Helping Fund Solar House

But more contributions are needed to get the FLeX House built for the national Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, D.C.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2011) – Fundraising efforts for Florida’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 competition – FLeX House – are being spearheaded by the state’s energy and building industries with more companies interested in Florida’s solar future coming on board as the deadlines for completion quickly approach. 

Donors include Florida Power & Light, Progress Energy, TECO Energy, Inc. and the Orlando Utilities Commission.

Sponsorship opportunities are available at a variety of levels, as low as $20 to $99, as high as $100,000 for naming rights, and everything in between. Donations can be made online by going to the SACD Solar Decathlon Project Fund 230021 at or click here.

“It’s going to take lots of partners from all over the state to get this amazing house built and being involved will be a badge of honor for every contributor,” said the team’s leader, USF College of The Arts School of Architecture + Community Design professor Stanley Russell.  “We still have a long way to go to get all of the funding and in-kind contributions in place so we welcome support from all those who recognize how important solar energy is to the state’s economy and our energy future.  With the state’s leading universities involved, we expect to be successful.”

Team Florida is made up of students and faculty of the University of South Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Central Florida, who have joined forces to build the ideal zero energy house, designed for a hypothetical young couple living in Central Florida on a moderate income.

“There’s no question that the house Team Florida is building is going to play an important role as the future of solar in the housing industry continues to unfold, and builders, engineers and designers from throughout the state should take note,” said Russell. 

A model of the house was on display at the 2011 NAHB International Builders’ Show in Orlando last month.  Several Team Florida students were on hand to answer questions about the FLeX House model. Visitors responded favorably to the design, particularly the north deck that serves to create a Florida-friendly indoor-outdoor living space.

“I think everyone expects the ‘Sunshine State’ to lead the way in developing solar power and rightfully so. Clearly President Obama thought so when he visited the Solar Energy Center in Arcadia. This project offers an opportunity to be at the forefront of this emerging industry,” Russell said. 

The house will be built in Florida, by the Beck Group with help from Team Florida’s students, then shipped to Washington, D.C. to be exhibited with all the other houses from teams throughout the world. When the house is shipped back to the USF campus it will be part of a new solar park that will include a solar power plant project led by D. Yogi Goswami, the John and Naida Ramil Professor at USF.  He and his College of Engineering team are looking at 24-hour solar energy availability at affordable prices.

Each of the partners in Team Florida has a meaningful contribution to make:

·         FSU is contributing engineering expertise to the project. 


·         UCF is providing essential energy measurement systems.


·         UF is lending interior design and building construction expertise.


·         USF is providing coordination, engineering and design expertise.


All of the partners in Team Florida have impressive solar energy credentials. 

·         UF’s 2010 Solar Decathlon entry in Madrid won the Public Choice Award last year, as well as first place in the Communication and Social Awareness contest category and placed eighth out of 17 universities from around the world. 


·         USF has teamed with TECO and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo to develop, design and test a renewable solar energy system at the zoo funded in part by a grant from the Florida High Tech Corridor.  The university’s faculty boasts leading researchers in solar energy and the Tampa campus features several new and forthcoming green buildings.


·         UCF’s highly-respected Florida Solar Energy Center  was created by the Florida Legislature in 1975 to serve as the state’s energy research institute. The main responsibilities of the center are to conduct research, test and certify solar systems and develop education programs.


·         The FSU Energy & Sustainability Center’s Off-Grid Zero Emissions Building project is promoting industry, government, and academic collaboration and participation in critical research activities to move beyond the stage of initial demonstration to commercialization.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.