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USA: San Diego Zoo Gets Public All-Solar EV Charging Station

A huge chunk of the nation’s electrical supply is still generated by coal-fired power plants, and that’s something of a buzz kill for electric vehicle drivers. Taking the source of the electricity into account, EV driving is not necessarily the emission-free experience that it could be. However, that is rapidly changing. More solar, wind and other renewable energy is entering the nation’s grid, and more EV drivers have access to solar power through their home charging stations.

Another key part of the equation, is access to public EV charging stations powered directly by alternative energy. There aren’t too many around right now, but a look at the San Diego Zoo’s new solar-powered EV charging station indicates that these present-day rarities could soon become commonplace both at civic institutions and throughout the private sector as well.

 

Parking lots and solar power

The common denominator between civic facilities and commercial properties is obvious to anyone who drives: parking lots. These vast, sprawling deserts of real estate typically go unused most of the time, namely after business hours and on weekends and holidays.

Even during working hours, many large-scale parking lots rarely, if ever, reach their full capacity. Solar canopies provide property owners with a way to extract additional value from this underused real estate, whether or not it is filled with cars.

A solar EV charger for the San Diego Zoo

The new solar EV charger is a project of the an organization called Smart City San Diego. Smart City’s partners include San Diego Gas & Electric, the City of San Diego, GE, UC San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego.

The project consists of five charging stations powered by ten photovoltaic canopies totaling 90 kilowatts. One of the charging stations is dedicated to a nearby ADA parking space, and the canopies themselves add a bit to zoo visitor comfort by providing enough shade for about 50 cars.

In addition to powering the charging stations, the ten canopies generate enough electricity at peak capacity to power 59 homes. Some of that is stored in a 100-kilowatt battery system, and the rest goes into the grid.

The whole project is linked by educational tools both at the site and online, which dovetails with the Zoo’s broader goal of encouraging “the application of sustainable design driven by science and the natural world.

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