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Green by Design

FGCU's solar panel field
FGCU’s new solar field will save the school about $700,000 a year in utility costs. [Photo: FGCU Archives]

Florida Gulf Coast University’s guiding principles, written before the university enrolled its first student in 1997, include references to “environmental consciousness” and “ecological sustainability.” In that light, says FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw, the new solar power field on the west side of campus is a natural progression of the school’s mission and not some exercise in green gimmickry.

“What you see today is an evolution,” Bradshaw says. “When you look at our solar field, it’s not a demonstration project. That solar field actually provides real power to three of our largest buildings on campus.”

The 15-acre, $14-million project can generate up to 2 megawatts of electricity, nearly enough to power around 200,000 square feet of classroom and lab space. Bradshaw says the solar field will help the university save about $700,000 a year in electricity costs. The 16 solar arrays, each consisting of around 24,000 square feet of solar panels, are designed to last for at least 20 years.

Wilson G. Bradshaw
Bradshaw
Bradshaw points out that the solar field is just the largest among several sustainability projects on FGCU’s 760-acre campus in Fort Myers. The university’s swimming pools are heated and cooled with geothermal energy, for example, and two of the school’s newest residence halls produce hot water from rooftop solar panels. On the academic side, FGCU recently received a $1-million gift from the Backe Foundation to hire an eminent scholar to lead research in renewable energy. “This is the roadmap that we have created for ourselves,” Bradshaw says. “This is core to the character of the university.”