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At G.E. Plant in Connecticut, Volts Plug In to the Sun

Posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 at 8:43 am by Solar Energy USA
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The following article on electric cars and solar powered charging stations is borrowed from NYTimes:

volt-charging-seusa On Monday morning, no fewer than five Chevrolet Volts were charging on 100 percent renewable energy from General Electric’s parking-lot Solar Carport. Opened in May, the 100-kilowatt solar installation, which also offers some shade and weather protection and has 10 connected G.E.-built chargers, is projected to last 25 years and provide 125 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, according to G.E.

The solar port is open to public use, but most of the Volts plugged in here are among the first wave of 25,000 plug-in hybrid and purely electric cars that G.E. pledged last year to buy. G.E. said it would use plug-in hybrids and E.V.’s, including 12,000 Volts and other cars, for “at least half” of its nationwide fleet of 30,000 company vehicles.

Ten Volts are based here, at the company’s Energy Industrial Solutions plant. Guillermo Wille, the division’s general manager for technology, said that the solar station could fully charge 13 vehicles a day, without tapping grid power. When the station is not charging cars, it generates electricity for use in the G.E. building across the street and also sends power back to the grid, he said.

According to an internal G.E. Web site that monitors the station in real time, during my visit on a sunny Monday, the solar panels were generating 43 kilowatts of DC power. Since the station was installed in May, it has generated a total of 20 megawatt-hours, enough for 1,033 full charges, the Web site reflected.

The Plainville station is equipped with chargers that are not available on the retail market. However, G.E. announced Monday that it would begin selling the wall-mounted version of its new 240-volt WattStation, a charger created by the industrial designer Yves Béhar, later this summer at Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer.

ge-ev-charger In August, five stores in California will begin carrying the charger, priced at around $1,000, and availability will spread to a total of 60 stores in September, when it will also become available nationwide through the Lowe’s Web site. The residential version of the WattStation can charge an E.V. in four to eight hours, depending on the make and model.

Luis Manuel Ramirez, the Energy Industrial Solutions chief executive, said that the installation of E.V. chargers bought at retail stores should not prove difficult. “It’s essentially like any other home appliance that needs a licensed contractor to be connected,” he said in a telephone interview. “You wouldn’t go to a nonlicensed contractor to put in your electric dryer.”

“By having the charging solution available at the beginning, we’ll help our customers save energy and be seen as an innovation leader,” added Jaclyn Pardini, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s, in a telephone interview.

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