July 2, 2011 – New Canaan and Westport, CT
Solar Powered EV Charging comes to Connecticut
The switch was turned on this week at Connecticut’s first Solar Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Station. Typically you would expect such first mover status would go to a municipality looking to make a ‘green’ statement or an active EV owner who supports the environment. But in this case, you’d be wrong on both counts.
Westport’s first electric vehicle charging station, powered by the rays of the sun, is the result of private capital invested by a local businessman who does not own an Electric Vehicle. As David Friezo contemplated improvements to his building at 495 Post Road East in Westport, he looked to the sun for cost saving energy solutions.
Leo Karl plugs in a Chevrolet Volt as David Friezo, building owner at 495 Post Road East, and Tony Eason of ElektronSolar look on. The charging station, Westport’s first, is powered by solar panels on the roof. (Photo by Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com)
“They’ve been working on this for the past three months,” David Friezo, the building’s owner, said of Westport-based ElektronSolar that designed the system and charging station in the parking lot.
“It’s truly green because you’re not taking power from the grid. You get the energy off the roof, and you plug your car in here. It’s the real deal.”
Tony Eason, owner of ElektronSolar, noted that the charging station is one of only a handful in the state, “and I’m sure the only solar powered one.”
Sun Electric of New Fairfield installed the overall system that generates 26 kilowatts that power a portion of the office building and the EV charging station when in use.
The building’s produced power is not stored in batteries. Instead, it back feeds unused electricity to the grid to garner credits from Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P). A flat screen television in the lobby displays how much power is being generated and dollars saved.
“This is what I call closing the loop,” said Eason. “You are closing the loop with solar produced energy.”
An electric vehicle (EV) charging station is an electrical connection that charges an EV faster than a conventional 110V outlet. Current EV charging stations are known as Level 2 chargers, using 240V. This installation has two cables, allowing two vehicles to charge up at the same time. As an example, a Chevy Volt with a fully depleted battery, would take about three to four hours to charge at 240V.
Using a standard 110-volt plug at home, it would take eight hours to charge the same Chevy Volt. The Nissan Leaf, a pure EV, would take 22-24 hours to charge from fully depleated on a standard 110V home outlet.
In addition to Eason and Friezo, head of Lydian Asset Management, present at the switch throwing were First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, who serves on the legislature’s Energy & Technology Committee, and Leo Karl III, president of Karl Chevrolet in New Canaan.
Karl, who arrived in the Volt to be charged, said his dealership has already sold 16 Volts, which retail for $39,900 to $44,000 and carry a $7,500 tax credit, and that he has eight more on order.
Each charge will allow the vehicle to travel approximately 40 miles, after which the onboard internal combustion engine generator begins producing electricity to keep the Volt going. The generator is fed by an eight-gallon tank, which produces enough electricity to travel about 350 miles more before stopping for gas just like a regular gas powered vehicle. Karl said that with current CL&P rates, each charge up would cost about $1.60.
“For electric vehicles, the time is here,” said Karl, adding that he is in the process of installing Solar Powered charging stations at his auto dealership.
Joseloff noted that plans are afoot to install a solar-powered EV charging area at the Westport train station.
Eason pointed out that many car manufacturers are embracing EV. In addition to the Volt there are the Leaf from Nissan, the Tesla Roadster (an Electric Sports Car built off a Lotus platform) and an electric Smart Car coming to market later this year.
The roof of the building at 495 Post Road East has been equipped with 109 photovoltaic panels that will power the electric vehicle charging station as well as the building.
“I guess people are going to have to start looking at their electric cars the way they look at their cell phones, making charging them part of their daily routine,” said Steve Guzda, principal of Sun Electric.
Guzda’s company not only installed the panels but six inverters in the building’s attic that convert the direct current (DC) from the solar cells into alternating current (AC) used to run building operations as well as the charging station.
“This is our bread and butter,” Steinberg said about individual and local government efforts to go green.
“We’ve been talking about EV for the entire session, and I’m a freshman, so they’ve been talking about it years before that. Obviously, we’re very excited.”
Friezo joked that once word is out people who own EVs will be lining up at his building for a free charge.
As to why he elected to invest in EV Charging, Friezo commented “I’ll let people do it (charge their EV), I don’t care. It’s part of giving back and being green.”