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Florida Energy Systems Consortium

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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The Florida Energy Systems Consortium was created by Florida statute in 2008 to promote collaboration among the energy experts at Florida’s 11 public universities.  The Consortium is charged to ‘perform research and development on innovative energy systems that lead to alternative energy strategies, improved energy efficiencies, and expanded economic development for the state’.  Importantly, the state legislature provided approximately $38M in funding for energy research, education, outreach, and technology commercialization at five Florida universities.  Additional information describing the consortium is given at the web site:

FESC has focused on the following Florida-relevant thrust areas:

•        Overarching - Understanding Florida’s energy systems

•        Developing Florida's Biomass Resources - Production of liquid fuels & other chemical intermediates (cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel) & gaseous fuels & feed stocks (gasification, anaerobic digestion), efficient conversion of biofuels to electric power (SOFCs, turbines), energy intensive crops, solid waste as a biomass resource

•        Harnessing Florida's Solar Resources - Photovoltaics, solar concentrators (fuel production, gasification), outreach and education in broad solar technologies

•        Ensuring Nuclear Energy & Carbon Constrained Technologies for Electric Power in Florida - Nuclear and electric power workforce training, partnerships with industry in critical research needs, power systems, power electronics & conditioning, carbon sequestration

•        Harnessing Florida’s Marine Energy Resources – Ocean and thermal differential energy harvesting

•        Securing our Energy Storage and Delivery Infrastructure - Transmission & distribution, grid reliability and resiliency, continuous energy delivery, integrated renewable systems, customer owned microgrids, power quality, energy storage, location aware systems, and efficiency

•        Enhancing Energy Efficiency & Conservation - Improvement of existing & new building efficiency, industry energy auditing & efficiency, outreach & education.

Place Florida in a leading position in the emerging energy industry:

The vision is that Florida becomes the economic hub for specific segments of the emerging energy industry.   Learning from how such hubs in other areas have been nucleated and then self-sustaining (e.g., Silicon Valley, Route 128 Biomedical), it is clear that several elements must be put in place to seed and grow an emerging industry.  A foundation to support this vision must include a world-class knowledge-based community that is rooted in research and development. This community will initially attract existing industry and then provide the innovation to fuel continued growth.  There must also be a well qualified workforce to provide not only the manufacturing skills, but also the higher level functions such as systems design and modeling, project implementation, economic analyses and  legal support that accompany an economic sector  hub.  A center of economic activity must also understand and promote the market for its economic output.  Economic growth requires capital and perhaps a good indicator of the preeminence of an economic center is the amount of capital it can attract. 

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Three energy sectors are prime candidates for establishing an economic hub in Florida.

  1. Solar Energy -  The sunshine state has the most solar insolation outside the southwest U.S. and importantly a high population density that mitigates transmission concerns.  It is also recognized that the Florida universities have an excellent research community.  This industry is now in the process of installing manufacturing capacity to serve the needs of the U.S. and beyond, and thus there is an urgency to compete for this sector.
  1. Smart Energy Systems -  It is becoming clear that gains in energy efficiency as well as conservation are substantial if we can become smarter on how we use our energy.  This can range from demand-side management to smart homes to traffic control.  This sector develops algorithms to control processes and produce sensors and actuators to implement the control strategies.  The state of Florida has a number of new or proposed programs to install smart systems or develop smarter communities that would be important to seeding this emerging industry in Florida.
  1. Bioenergy -  Florida is the richest biomass state in the U.S., producing ~10% of this country’s biomass.  Biomass can be used as feedstock to produce biofuels (e.g., microbial digestion, via synthesis gas) or directly burned for electric power generation.  High transportation costs for shipping biomass limits its use to within a relatively small radius of the bioprocessing plant.  Thus Florida has the opportunity to become a significant producer and potentially a technology center.  The jobs associated with the production industry are largely agriculture, but the technology supporting industry jobs are higher skilled.


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