Energy tracking device uses solar energy

USF engineers and researchers have developed a system that uses solar panels to generate energy from the sun and tracks energy consumption.

The system, called the Sustainable Electrical Energy Delivery System (SEEDS), was developed by Alex Domijan, professor and director of the Power Center for Utility Explorations (PCUE), Arif Islam, assistant director of PCUE, and other professors and students.

Energy derived by solar panels during the day is stored in a battery for use during the evening.

The energy used can then be tracked through the Internet, Domijan said, allowing people to view the energy consumption at any given time.

“The importance of this system is that it saves money and is reliably efficient,” Domijan said. “This project is a tool for change, a way to transform the whole system in energy production, from regional to continental.”

Islam said the benefit of the SEEDS project is its use of an alternative, renewable energy source instead of fossil fuels.

The SEEDS project was installed at the USF St. Petersburg campus, outside the library, as well as at Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg.

“Each location is equipped with a 2-kilowatt battery storage capacity and solar panels to harness energy from the sun’s light,” Islam said. “The idea is to generate the power, then store this energy and have this stored power be implemented to the smart grid system.”

The smart grid system would provide a way to efficiently store energy needed for a power grid that supplies energy to homes and businesses.

Implementation at the park has been successful, Domijan said.

“The park is now self-sufficient with the 2-kilowatt battery and solar panels put into place,” he said. “The benefit of the energy being transferred from the panels to the battery is that there is no carbon footprint left behind.”

With the help of a funding partnership with Progress Energy Florida (PEF) and the Florida High Tech Corridor, researchers are continuing to expand the SEEDS project.

“Progress Energy Florida had a multifaceted involvement with the project,” said PEF spokeswoman Deborah Shipley. “Grants were given to PCUE to support the research and materials needed for the creation of the SEEDS program.”

“Without the collaboration USF has had with these companies and other groups here on campus, the project wouldn’t have been possible,” Islam said.

Shipley said PEF is happy with the data being produced and hopes the system will have less impact on the environment and better serve customers.

“The information that is being gained through the battery storage is essential to solar applications,” she said. “This program will improve the energy industry as a whole. The
partnership between USF and PEF is still continuing.”

It has also attracted the attention of others interested in the system and its uses.

“Many different manufacturers, developers, hospitals and other businesses that are in need of sustainable energy have contacted us,” Domijan said. “This system will have hundreds of patents arise.”

The researchers are in the process of filing for patents, Domijan said.

Companies have high estimates for the worth of the project because it is the first of its kind and environmental initiatives like this are in demand.

“We have been told that SEEDS is worth $15 million,” Islam said.

Islam said the researchers want as many students as possible to get involved with the project.

“We have all the facilities necessary for research, and accepting students in undergraduate and graduate programs helps with the educational mission of the project,” he said. “This development brings more attention to the University and shows that we have alternative energy initiatives.”