With $50 million, Florida universities to focus on renewable energy
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the cost of gas and electricity rising seemingly by the day, Florida’s universities will work together on research aimed at boosting a largely untapped resource: renewable energy.
The Florida Energy Systems Consortium, created in the energy bill signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday in Miami, will bring together the state’s universities to work on new solar, biomass and other renewable energy technologies. With the University of Florida heading up the effort, the consortium also will focus on helping new technologies succeed in the market — and on cultivating a workforce of graduates with expertise in renewable energy.
“All of the universities have pieces of the puzzle,” said Eric Wachsman, a UF professor of materials science and engineering and director of UF’s Florida Institute for Sustainable Energy. “By putting these pieces together with this consortium, we will be able to address the larger, statewide energy challenges facing Florida.”
The state will provide at least $50 million for the consortium. UF will receive the largest portion, $15 million, because of its leadership and administrative responsibilities. Florida State University, the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University each will receive $8.75 million. The remaining six state public universities are expected to participate in the consortium as well.
Wachsman said initial efforts, expected to begin as early as July, will focus on taking stock of, and bringing together, the diverse renewable energy expertise within the universities. Participants also will begin planning collaborations on research efforts ranging from producing renewable energy to improving energy distribution to alternative transportation technologies.
“We can make a real contribution,” he said. “We just need the commitment from the state and the financial incentives for industry. This consortium is a great first step.”
The universities are expected to appoint a director for the consortium later this summer.