USF’s Clean Energy Research Center is moving toward the creation of a newer and bigger solar panel grid that could supply vehicles with 24-hours of energy at an affordable price, said center Director Elias Stefanakos
The center established the nation’s first 20,000-watt, solar-electric charging station for electric vehicles in 1995. This followed a 1991 selection of the center by the Florida Energy Office to develop a state-of-the art electric car and charging station, according to the center’s website.
The charging station was completed in 1996 and the first electric vehicles arrived on campus in 1997. Both the solar powered charging station and test facility were the firsts of their kind in the United States, according to USF’s College of Engineering website.
But according to the Clean Energy Research Center’s website, the original fleet of vehicles are now outdated since newer hybrid vehicles have been designed. Stefanakos said no additional land will be needed for new solar panel grids, as they can be built over the top of existing parking lots.
Being awarded more than $15 million in contracts and grants over the past 10 years has allowed the center to continue its resource conservation research, according to the center’s website
Stefanakos said he continues to direct his research department toward alternative energy sources. His projects include improving hydrogen storage for hydrogen fueled vehicles and figuring out how to turn Tampa’s trash into clean energy. His research is focused on conserving energy and revolutionizing how we use power for our daily use.
“You don’t waste energy,” Stefanakos said. “You increase efficiency and you reduce the impact of our generation.”
Stephanie Martell, an environmental science major and Department of Energy Student Ambassador, said the next big jump in energy conservation will occur in the biofuels sector.
“Whether through algae or vegetable oil, the biofuels sector has much room to grow, especially with cars causing terrible pollution that affects human health,” Martell said. “The applications and activities for going green are endless, and their relevance and importance will only increase as the need for renewable energy grows.”
Stefanokos said with him at the helm, USF will continue to be in the forefront of alternative energy research.