U.S. Rep. Darren Soto visited Valencia College’s Poinciana Campus on Friday to announce $500,000 in federal Community Project Funding for a solar system that will significantly reduce the campus’s utility costs and become an environmental showcase in the Poinciana community. In addition, Valencia College will provide matching funds to support the project.
“We are so thankful for Congressman Soto’s willingness to help us invest in solar energy at the Poinciana Campus,” said Valencia College President Kathleen Plinske. “This solar project at the Poinciana Campus will represent a significant milestone in reducing Valencia College’s greenhouse gas emissions as we work toward our goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.”
In attendance at Friday’s presentation were Brandon Arrington, Chairman of the Osceola County Board of County Commissioners for District 3, and State Representative Kristen Arrington for District 43.
“Valencia College’s Poinciana Campus was constructed to increase access to higher education for a historically underserved and diverse community. As the Poinciana community continues to grow, we must meet the moment and advance alongside it. Adding sustainable and future-proof solar panels to the campus is one way we can move forward,” said Soto. “This project will harness the power available to the Sunshine State to better serve our Poinciana students, create jobs, and modernize our district’s infrastructure. I am proud to be a part of this project and will continue being an advocate for greater access to education for the Poinciana community and our partners at Valencia College.”
Opened in 2017, Valencia College’s Poinciana Campus was constructed to increase access to higher education for a historically underserved and diverse community. Given the importance of environmental sustainability, the campus was built to support the future installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to move toward carbon neutrality. The rooftops of the buildings have the capacity to support a 292 kW PV system generating approximately 453,000 kWh of electricity annually.
This project will transition the Poinciana Campus from being powered 100% by fossil fuels to being powered almost 40% by solar energy.
An avid lifelong learner, Plinske recently earned a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Florida. The support for the funding request for solar panels was developed, in part, through Plinske’s capstone project at UF, where she explored how the tools of industrial and systems engineering could enhance Valencia’s sustainability efforts.
The Poinciana Campus project aligns with Osceola County’s vision that, by 2060, new buildings will produce enough renewable energy to meet their annual consumption requirements. This project will demonstrate that existing buildings can also work toward that goal – and demonstrate the community-wide commitment to reducing the risks of climate change.