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FSU Tag Line

FSU Sustainable Energy Research Facility (SERF)

What is SERF?

SERF is a building on the Frostburg State University campus housing the FSU Renewable Energy Center. Once completed, this facility will be one of the first off-the-grid research facilities in the nation, serving as a demonstration and test site for technologies that allow buildings to be separate from the power grid. FSU is currently completing the infrastructure of the facility. During fall 2015, FSU students and faculty will be able to conduct a wide variety of renewable energy research projects and instructional classes.


Upon completion of the infrastructure, SERF will generate its own electricity by wind power and sunlight. A large battery bank will store backup energy to supply the building at least for a week when neither sunlight or wind is unavailable or insufficient. The building will be heated mainly by natural sunlight and a solar thermal collector array. Water heated by a solar-thermal collector will be stored in insulated tanks and circulated in the closed loop radiant floor system for space heating. Solar heating will provide also domestic hot water stored in a separate tank. After all energy needs of the building are supplied and batteries are completely charged, excess electricity will be used to produce hydrogen to be stored in tanks as a long-term backup energy.

The SERF building was constructed at FSU thanks to two federal fundings received with assistance of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R - 6th district of Maryland) in 2008 and 2009. FSU students and graduates have been active participants in the design of control systems for the project.

Purposes of SERF

Conduct research, education, and outreach activities on renewable and clean energy applications

  • A demonstration example of self-sufficient, off-grid building for individuals such as homeowners, farmers, or entrepreneurs who seek energy security in Western Maryland or similar geographic locations
  • Test center and showcase for renewable energy products

Design Features

  • Approximately 6,300 square feet usable area
  • Energy efficient, LEED certified green building
  • Goal of being independent from the electric utility (100% off-grid)
  • Supplied by wind and solar energy
  • Passive solar heating and lighting
  • Solar thermal system for water and space heating
  • Short-term energy storage in a battery bank
  • Long-term energy stored in hydrogen tanks and backed up by PEM fuel cells
  • Thermal energy stored in hot water tanks, radiant floor, and air tight walls
  • Energy Recovery System to pre-condition incoming air for energy saving
  • Computer controlled energy management system for supply and us