Tennessee invests in ‘gas stations’ of the future

roadside-solarTennessee is investing in renewable EV charging infrastructure. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has announced that it will be installing solar charging stations across the state over the next two years.

The TVA will be partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in testing and deploying solar-assisted charging stations across Tennessee, according to a TVA press release.

With cars like the Nissan LEAF becoming available in late 2010, EV drivers without garage outlets or those taking long trips will need places to charge their vehicles.

“These cars will need a new type of ‘filling station,’” said TVA CEO Tom Kilgore.

The first solar charging station prototype will be tested at EPRI’s Laboratories for Electric Transportation Application this spring. It may be constructed near the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville, where many EV owners park in garages with no charging outlets, according to the TVA fact sheet on the project. The second prototype will be built by ORNL in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The stations will use a modular design of solar panels, so they can accommodate from two to more than 10 vehicles.
The prototypes will be tested for three to six months. After this trial period, additional stations will be constructed in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville.

The stations will be grid-tied with battery storage, and will be smart-grid enabled to monitor the flow of energy between the solar panels, batteries and electric grid.

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The vehicles can initially pull from the station’s batteries to charge entirely with solar power. When the batteries are depleted, EVs can pull from the electric grid through the station.

The first prototype will have four to six EV charging outlets, but in the future 10-outlet stations will be constructed as well.

The solar charging stations will facilitate the expansion of EV use in the region, said vice president of power delivery and utilization at ERPI Arshad Mansoor.

“Electrifying transportation is an important step in achieving a low-carbon future. The solar assisted charging stations that are being developed by TVA in partnership with EPRI, ORNL and distributors will help accelerate deployment of electric vehicles in the region,” said Mansoor.

TVA is a federally-owned electricity provider covering most of Tennessee and parts of nine surrounding states. It currently produces over 5,000 megawatts from renewable sources, including solar, wind, hydro and methane, according to a story on the CleanTech blog.

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