Small Footprint Solar Charging Station Unveiled

JUN 3 2012 BY STAFF 9

Win Chevrolet Debuts New Solar Charging Station for Their Volt

For anyone who has thought about having a solar charging system to power their electric vehicle but knew they did not have enough room, or the right exposure, Advanced Technology and Research Corporation has a solution for you.

Volt at an ATR Charging Unit

Their solar charging system uses only six solar panels that are then mounted on an 18-foot pole.  But to further increase efficiency, the panels also use GPS technology to track the movements of the sun.  This “axis tracking” will increase the power collection by over 30% , while not increasing the footprint needed.   Think of the six panels as really nine traditionally mounted panels.

And what better way to show off the system by actually putting it into service on the ground?    Starting this past Tuesday, Win Kelly Chevrolet, in Clarkesville, Maryland, had one of the first EV dedicated system installed at their dealership, and then had a little “kick off” celebration by charging up one of their new Chevy Volts.

“[Electric vehicle] owners are making an important and strongly eco-friendly choice by buying electric vehicles in the first place,” said Rob Lundahl, ATR’s VP for energy and automation said to the ColumbiaPatch. “And these same eco-minded values are going to influence their choices of where they refuel their cars, shop, go out to eat and stay overnight. EV charging stations will be the least this new and growing class of consumer will look for.”

The system/L2 charger can fill up a Volt in about four hours, a Nissan Leaf in about seven, partially by the sun.  When not plugged into an electric vehicle, the solar array can be used to send unused electricity back into the grid.  Initial cost on the unit is about $23,000, but the company says that as production grows into the “hundreds and thousands” the cost will come down.

The array itself is rated at 1,410 watts, and is expected (in a normalized location) to produce about 7.5 kWh per day.

Six Panel Array On the Ground


Categories: Charging, Chevrolet, General


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9 Comments on "Small Footprint Solar Charging Station Unveiled"

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Nifty, but at a cost of $16/watt, that is at least twice as expensive (probably closer to 3x more expensive) than installing your typical roof-top system. You’re probably better off installing a traditional system on a roof as long as it doesn’t face north!

For example, PVwatts estimates this amount of energy / year for these types of 1,000W DC systems:

2-axis tracking: 1628 kWh/year
1-axis tracking: 1546 kWh/year
Fixed, 39* tilt south: 1228 kWh/year
Fixed, 39* tilt west: 939 kWh/year
Fixed, 39* tilt east: 930 kWh/year
Fixed 15* tilt north: 875 kWh/year
Fixed, 39* tilt north: 560 kWh/year

39* tilt was only chosen because it’s the default for the location in PVwatts (default is the latitude for the location) – A more typical 15* tilt would increase the output of the north facing system to 875 kWh/year or about half the output from a 2-axis tracking system.

So you’d really have to have a poorly situated roof to have a $16/watt 2-axis tracking system be more cost effective than a fixed roof-top mount which costs around $5-7/watt.

At $16 a KWH that is over 3 times what I paid for my rooftop system. I paid that same $23,000 for a 4.5KW system that supplies a yearly average of about 25KWH a day, in summer it cranks out 30KWH a day. So tell me again why I need to spend the same amount for 60% of the power.

Many will read this article and equate it to a normal solar install when it only deals with “small footprint” installations. Like your system, I paid the same for our 5KW system. Already the price we paid has fallen substantially. If a person is willing to DIY, they can build a 5KW system for under $16,000 today. A “fixed” or “manual tilt” 2KW system stated in this article can be had for $8000 before tax credits and is adequate to power most EVs. For the emerging EV enthusiast, there needs to be an awareness of this information.

OK, GM installs one of these units in each of it’s 4,500 dealerships, Ford in each of their 3,750, and Toyota in it’s 2,000 and we’re on our way to reduced costs for the rest of us!

Obviously these units are more efficient than standard fixed panels but their viability for home use is limited at best. Just like EVs, the first ones need to sell to enable the economies of scale to get costs in line.

I live in the cloudy north, so more economical thin film panels or roofing tiles make more sense. They’re cheaper and more efficient on overcast days. This is where I feel the solar industry will eventually catch on. Plus, community councils don’t fight them for aesthetic reasons like they do silicon panels.

For me, the coolest factor in these installations is that public “WOW!” reaction. I dig the big VOLT logo on the mast.

Each time a motorist drives by a dealer solar unit with EVs/PHEVs plugged in, it just makes one think about the possibilities.

The “EVs are coal powered vehicles” crowd ( hello, Top Gear… ) don’t look as intelligent
when electron-fueled cars are juiced up by the sun!

I’d be concerned with its stability in high winds. Say gusts of 50mph or more. Wonder what it’s rated at?

Wind is an issue. I bet the system was analyzed by a licensed PE.
Catastrophic failure at the pole-to-ground mount or on the pole itself is not likely. Fatigue on the array mount is typically the big issue and can lead to catastrophic failure.. Being wobbly and and structurally inadequate is a bad thing. On the other hand, being too rigid is not great either. The system has to flex a tad to shed off loads. It is iimperative to hire a licensed PE to simulate the loads that could occur at the installation site.

Wind loads vary. In southern parts of the country or Puerto Rico the engineer would design to hurricane wind loads. The midwest would be more in the neighborhood of 70 to 90mph. I can’t think of any area where an engineer would design the system for only 50mph gusts. That is way too low.

What a bunch of ding-dongs. Notice the energy-hog light fixtures to the left of the array in the top picture. I assure you any possible “gain” in offsets is more than lost with those fixtures. 1900 bucks would have bought them 2 highly efficient LED fixtures.

I understand the desire to minimize “footprint” — but that mounting system (if built to code) makes no sense where there is access to the utiity grid. The ROI will never work. However it may be ok for “off-grid” applications or where you don’t want to backfeed into an over-taxed or fragile grid.

Great blog! Sorry to change the subject, but I recently had some hail damage so i’m looking for a great roofing company in Nashville. Have you heard of any good ones? There’s a roofing company in Hendersonville, right outside of Nashville, called AE Roofing & Exteriors who could be good, but I’ve only seen a few reviews. Here’s the address of these Nashville roofers, 108 Midtown Court #203 Hendersonville, TN 37075 (615) 431-2283. Let me know your thoughts! Thanks!