Oregon college pioneers solar + EV synergy

building1-lccLane Community College (LCC) in Eugene, Ore. hopes to be the leader among institutions of higher education in the development of infrastructure for running vehicles on renewable energy.

LCC has a solar station under construction that will be ready in September.

The College has two separate arrays proposed, which, if both constructed, would produce 74,000 kWh of electricity per year.

The station which will be started in September will produce about 37,000 kWh per year and will have 18 slots for charging EVs. It will hold approximately 228 solar panels, each producing 174 watts of electricity. It will not be a grid-tied system.

The first goal of the station is to be a hands-on classroom for teaching students in LCC’s energy management and renewable energy degree program. The station will allow students to learn about installing, repairing and servicing solar energy and electric vehicle infrastructure, said LCC spokesman Dennis Carr.

The college is referring to the station as a solar station rather than a solar charging station because the focus of the structure is on student learning instead of charging EVs, said Carr.

Solar EV-charging station to aid in learning process
The station will provide students with a hands-on educational opportunity to build, monitor and retrofit a solar electric system, said Eric Westerholm, energy management staff member who helps students find apprenticeships.

LCC has not yet decided if the station will be open to the public, or if it will just be used for charging the college’s EV fleet, said Carr.

I would love to see Oregon or the western part of the U.S. become the center of EV production, EV driving and EV use.
–Lane Community College Spokesperson Dennis Carr

The college currently has nine electric maintenance carts and hopes to expand its fleet to include electric vehicles in the future, said Carr.

In addition to charging EVs, the station will feed solar electricity into LCC’s Health and Wellness Center, which is under construction and is set to open in September.

The energy generated at the station will only go into this building, and not back into the grid, said Carr.

The Health and Wellness Center, which will be close to 48,000 square feet, is being built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold Standard of green building construction.

“We want to achieve green building standards to the highest standard possible,” said Carr.

LCC does not yet know how much money it could save by powering part of the Health and Wellness Center from the station, or how much could be saved by powering the college’s fleet of EVs with the station, he said.

Sustainability a Lane Community College Core Value
Once the solar station and Wellness Center are up and running, energy management program students and faculty will carefully monitor the center’s electricity use to determine how much money the college is saving, added Carr.

lane_ct_index_01The station is also being built to work towards fulfilling the college’s core value of sustainability, which it added to its strategic plan in January 2007.

District voters approved a 15-year bond and $83 million to fund LCC renovations, upgrades and remodels in November 2008. One percent of the bond went to green upgrades. So the college had $830,000 to work with for sustainability efforts on campus, said Carr.

Part of the $830,000 has been designated to the solar station. The college has also received a $100,000 grant from the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) to help fund it.

Other colleges and universities in Oregon and across the country are working to develop renewable energy infrastructure and train students to work in this industry.

Columbia Gorge Community College, with campuses in The Dalles and Hood River, Ore., is also at the forefront in training students to design, build and monitor renewable energy systems.

It offers a one-year Certificate program and a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Renewable Energy Technology. This program prepares students to engineer and manufacture hydo-electric and wind energy infrastructure.

Additionally, the University of Iowa has plans to build a solar EV station that will feed power back into the electric grid. Construction on this project is set to start in June 2010 and be completed in April 2011.

Oregon seeks to grow EV infrastructure
The state of Oregon is also working to establish infrastructure to make the state EV friendly. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski created the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Working Group by executive order in 2008.

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The group released a report in January 2010 calling for the development of a network of EV charging stations across the state to support widespread EV use.

“Oregon must have a sufficient network of EV support equipment (EVSE) to support these vehicles and achieve its goals. By developing a comprehensive statewide strategy, Oregon can create a tipping point for EVs, which would help resolve the ‘chicken-or-the-egg problem,” the report stated.

Carr hopes to see the use of EVs expand in Oregon, and would like to see an EV charging infrastructure powered by renewable energy sources.

“I would love to see Oregon or the western part of the U.S. become the center of EV production, EV driving and EV use,” he said.

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