FGCU’s solar field delayed by permitting

NWF   |   January 14, 2009

In the spring, we alerted you to the Florida legislature's approval of FGCU's solar array, which is expected to cover 19 acres and produce 2MW of electricity for the university.

However, to no one's surprise, the project has been delayed by more provincial concerns. Namely, permitting. 

While officials expect that the missing environmental resource and water use permits will be granted quickly, the clash between even the best-laid plans and bureaucracy is not a new one for universities.

"FGCU initially put December as a target date to see the first panels
hit campus, hoping to take advantage of federal tax credits that were
set to expire when the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31. Congress
extended those credits as part of the financial bailout bill, though,
making the back-and-forth permitting process not as stressful. Now, the
university is just waiting for a green light."

Here at HQ, we are doing some retrofits — including test drills for ground-source heating — to make our building carbon-neutral, and what we've found is that the bidding process is absolutely crucial. Learning to ask the right questions saves a lot of time and headaches. In our specific case, we had much better results by specifying in RFPs that the bidder be familiar
with permitting processes and provide us with solid
examples. By including the permitting in the scope of the work, we headed some of this off at the pass, and ended up going with a project management firm instead of a contractor.

Of course, this won't solve every problem, but perhaps is useful as universities move forward with significant sustainability projects. What has your school's experience been? Where have you found unexpected "hurry-up-and-wait" moments? What lessons have you learned from the process?

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Published: January 14, 2009