FGCU using solar energy, go-karts to further sustainability initiatives

Published: April 6, 2018 3:48 PM EDT
Updated: April 6, 2018 5:18 PM EDT

Right now, a 15-acre solar field fuels part of Florida Gulf Coast University.

The university is using sunshine and a unique competition to teach the next generation of scientists the power of light.

“We get batteries, figure out how to hook them all up to the engine first, then we test it without the solar panels. And then we figure out how we are going to wire the solar panels to the battery,” said Naples high school student Logan Szittai.

Students like Szittai are gearing up for their big race.

It’s called the Sunchase Solar Go-Kart Challenge, an annual event providing students with a hands-on opportunity to apply the concepts they are learning.

“This race is a way to have that educational component as well as have that sustainability component together in one event,” said Laura Frost, director of STEM education.

It’s an event that drives home one of FGCU’s main initiatives—a push toward sustainability.

“Solar energy is the most promising source of sustainable energy,” said Danvers Johnston, assistant professor of environmental renewable energy.

FGCU has been utilizing solar power for almost 10 years, and it’s saving a lot of money.

“The net savings, FGCU is able to save 3/4 of a million dollars per year by not purchasing electricity from the grid and instead producing that onsite,” Johnston said.

Other sustainability measures they have taken have also increased the impact of their 15-acre plant.

The energy produced from FGCU’s push toward solar power is enough to fuel hundreds of homes.