Duke Energy, University of South Florida St. Petersburg Unveil Solar Battery Project

  • 100kW solar installation powers university's parking garage
  • Excess solar energy stored in an industrial-size battery system
  • Project enabled by $1 million grant from Duke Energy Florida

Duke Energy Florida and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) have unveiled a new solar battery project that will explore how to store and use energy from the sun. A $1 million grant from Duke Energy is funding the research at USFSP.

As part of the grant, a 100kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system has already been installed on the top of the university's 5th Avenue South parking garage.

"This partnership gives Duke Energy and the University of South Florida additional firsthand experience in solar battery storage systems," said Alex Glenn, state president, Duke Energy Florida. "The innovative and cutting-edge research also provides students a real-world learning environment as we develop alternative energy solutions for our customers." 

Solar energy that is not used by the garage for lights, elevators and electric-vehicle charging stations is stored in battery systems or put onto the electric grid for immediate use. High-resolution data is being collected on the PV installation and on the energy storage system which is displayed on an online dashboard and several kiosks on campus.

The new larger energy storage system operates in conjunction with two smaller existing USF energy storage systems. This creates an opportunity to build upon existing battery technology while advancing clean energy solutions.

"This is an opportunity to manage energy costs, while promoting sustainability on campus," said USFSP Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska. "We are pleased and proud to have been awarded this grant, and to provide faculty and students with a chance to help build something of lasting impact. USFSP has long enjoyed a strong partnership with Duke Energy and we look forward to future collaborations."

The 100kW solar array at USF St. Petersburg measures approximately 7,100 sq ft, with 318 individual panels. It is a freestanding canopy with space beneath for parking. A solar array of this size can produce enough energy to power an electric car for half a million miles.

USFSP has an existing 2kW solar energy system located at its Central Facilities Plant that was constructed in partnership with Duke Energy and the USF Tampa School of Engineering. Additionally, a series of solar panels provides power for decorative lights on campus.

Duke Energy has several battery storage projects underway across the country.  

  • Duke Energy Florida's SEEDS (Sustainable Electrical Energy Delivery Systems) program, which includes two battery storage projects at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg and the Albert Whitted Park, also in St. Petersburg. The two units combine energy storage systems with small solar arrays.
  • Twenty-four K-12 schools in the Duke Energy Florida service territory have received 25kWh battery backup systems funded by the company that are integrated with their solar PV installations. As with other battery storage projects at Duke Energy, there is performance monitoring of these systems to learn more about combining intermittent energy resources with storage. The installations also help foster educational opportunities for students at the schools.
  • The company's Notrees Battery Storage Project in West Texas is North American's largest battery storage installation project at a wind farm. Duke Energy matched a $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to install 36MW large-scale batteries capable of storing electricity produced by its 153MW Notrees wind farm.

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