Tuesday, 17 August 2010 13:42 | Written by Christof Demont-Heinrich, SCD.Com Editor |
Solar carports, like this one built by Solaire Generation, are taking off in the U.S. [Photo Credit: Solaire Generation]
Growing interest in solar carports and solar-powered EV charging stations doesn’t necessarily mean that the electric car + solar connection is going to take off. But it does mean that the solar world is quickly waking up to the potential of what just might turn out to be a better surface area to cover with solar panels than the roofs of buildings: The vast blacktop parking areas that populate the U.S and which make up a significant portion of the estimated 45,000 square miles of so-called "impervious surface areas" in the U.S, or an area roughly equivalent in size to the state of Ohio.
And, in case you haven’t noticed, interest and investment in solar carports and solar-powered EV charging stations (a solar carport does not necessarily offer EV charging) is clearly on the rise.
Solar carport vs. solar-powered EV charging station
This Envision Solar cluster of Solar Trees is a straightforward solar carport with no EV charging added. (Envision Solar Photo)
Solar carport = A basic parking structure with solar panels on it. The electricity the panels produce either flows directly into the electric grid (very common) and/or is stored via batteries on site (uncommon). Charging stations for electric vehicles are not necessarily integrated into a basic solar carport – although they can be, at which point a solar carport is more accurately described as a solar-powered EV charging station (see below).
A solar-powered EV charging station at the New York Institute of Technology. Notice that the EVs can plug right into this solar carport. (NYIT Photo)
Solar-powered EV charging station: A solar-powered EV charging station is a specific type of solar carport – one equipped with charging stations for electric vehicles. When solar energy is being generated by the solar panels on top of a solar-powered EV charging station (panels can sometimes be on a building rooftop nearby), that energy flows directly into the batteries of an EV parked underneath it – or next to it. When no electric vehicle is plugged in to the EV Charging Station, typically the electricity generated by the solar panels on the solar part of the charging station flows into the general electric grid. If not enough electricity is being produced by the solar panels on site to charge the batteries of the EVs that have plugged into the station, that electricity is drawn from the general electric grid. It is possible to have an off-the-grid solar-powered EV charging station. For instance, SunPods, which makes portable EV-charging stations, makes a version of the SunPod which offers battery storage for the solar-generated electricity.
For instance, this week almost immediately after REC Solar announced that it was going to be building what it said would be America’s largest solar carport at a VA hospital facility in Arizona at 2.9 megawatts, Solaire Generation announced an even bigger solar carport project: A 4.1 megawatt installation that will be built at a Fortune 100 corporate office campus in central New Jersey.
SolarChargedDriving.Com has already written about dozens of solar carports and solar-powered EV charging stations in the past 10 months. In fact, we’ve mapped many of them onto our unique Global Map of Solar-Powered Plug-In Stations.
That we've consistently written about solar carports and solar-powered EV charging stations is a sure sign that there's a lot going on in this arena.
You don't need to stay on our web site to see that this is true. If one takes a quick glance at YouTube, a search for solar carports and solar-powered EV charging stations reveals a slew of videos -- the vast majority posted within the last year -- highlighting the solar + auto and/or solar + EV combo.
List of YouTube videos on solar carports Below are quite a few of these videos. They provide strong evidence that the concept – and practice -- of solar-charged driving is on its way up. That’s good news for the environment, for national fueling independence, and, on a more everyday level, for those of us would appreciate more shade spots to park our car in.
Envision Solar's Promotional Video on Solar Carports -- Posted to YouTube Dec. 18, 2007
Solar-powered charging station -- Posted to YouTube Oct. 5, 2008
Solar energy project Google headquarters -- Posted to YouTube Oct. 14, 2008
EV charging stations prototype installed on solar panel tracking arrays -- Posted to YouTube May 1, 2009
Vectrix@Solon in Berlin: Solar power for your bike -- Posted to YouTube June 11, 2009
University of Alabama-Birmigham's solar-recharged all electric vehicles -- Posted to YouTube July 27, 2009
P4P and TenSol Power's Revolutionary Solar Carport at REM Eyewear -- Posted to YouTube Aug. 25, 2009
Solar carport -- Posted to YouTube Dec. 16, 2009
Solar charging station -- Posted to YouTube March 17, 2010
University of Central Florida reports -- Solar charging station -- Posted to YouTube March 19, 2010
Solar-powered EV Charging Station -- Posted to YouTube May 27, 2010
Groundbreaking for Electric Power Research Institute solar-powered EV charging station with battery storage capacity -- Posted to YouTube June 18, 2010
Solar-powered EVSE at McDonald's -- Posted to YouTube July 30, 2010
Merit Solar Charging Station -- Posted to YouTube June 29, 2010
Pulaski, Tenn. Solar-Powered Charging station -- Posted to YouTube Aug. 5, 2010
GE Ecoimagination Challenge: Solar car plug-in car recharging station -- Posted to YouTube Aug. 5, 2010