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USA: Blount businesses take solar company up on its offer of charging stations
photos by Ed Marcum/News Sentinel Lisa Stewart, executive director of Black Bear Solar Institute, uses equipment to test a new electric vehicle-charging station Friday in Townsend. The nonprofit organization installed the station at Trillium Cove Shopping Village.

Guests at the Talley Ho Inn and the Carriage House Restaurant in Townsend sometimes do a double-take at the electric vehicle-charging stations recently installed there, said Michael Talley, whose family owns the businesses.

He doesn’t blame them.

“They look like a giant iPod,” he said.

But to a growing number of electric vehicle owners, they are a reason to make Talley’s establishments a stop on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. The Talley Ho and the Carriage House are among a number of Blount County businesses that have opted to have Black Bear Solar Institute, a Townsend-based nonprofit organization, install charging stations.

Lisa Stewart, executive director of the organization, said it has installed 18 stations at businesses or organizations in Townsend and six in Maryville, and plans to install two at Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport. The group plans to install 12 more as part of its involvement in the U.S. Department of Energy’s EV Project.

This is one of several institute projects intended to raise awareness of renewable energy sources and raise revenue toward an eventual wildlife rehabilitation center for orphaned bear cubs and other animals, Stewart said.

“Right now we are focusing on wildlife rehab because we are at the gateway to the Smokies,” Stewart said. “People can come here for an educational experience, ask questions about what we are doing while we are doing it and then ride into the park and see the environment that needs to be protected.”

Besides heading the organization, Stewart works with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to help care for orphaned animals. She does this at her home, but the group operates an education center at Trillium Cove Shopping Village, where it also maintains five charging centers.

The institute arranges with businesses to install and operate the charging stations. The business has no cost except for the loss of a few parking spaces. In return, Black Bear Solar will get the revenue from an hourly charging fee the government plans to impose on those using charging stations next year. Talley said this is a great deal.

“It is a great way to expose our business to those who have electric vehicles,” he said. “Right now, there are not that many electric cars on the road, but in the future, there will be a lot more.”


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