Solar Source in Largo will have charging station for electric cars

08/12/09 Seán Kinane
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Yesterday General Motors claimed that its upcoming electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, could get a fuel economy equivalent of 230 miles per gallon. It won’t be available until late next year and will cost about $40,000. But charging stations are slowly popping up around the country. Within the next week, there will be a standard 110-volt alternating current charging station outside of Solar Source in Largo, according to their director of training and sales, Ron Phillips.

“It’s a national [charging station] network that will be here at Solar Source. People are going to want a location where they shop, where they go to the theater, whether it’s the Post Office, they can pull in, plug in their electric vehicle and top it off. And it extends their range.”

Chevy’s website estimates that using home electricity to fully charge the Volt’s lithium-ion battery will cost between $0.75 and $2.50. That would allow forty miles of battery-only driving before switching to a gasoline-powered generator. Phillips says that the charger at Solar Source will be free until the end of the year. After that, customers can use a credit card to purchase a four-hour charge or can subscribe to a number of plans ranging from $20 to $50 per month. The goal of Solar Source is to make their charging station carbon-neutral, according to Phillips.

Earlier this month, Nissan announced that they, too, will market an electric car by the end of next year. The Leaf will get 100 miles on a fully charged battery. Phillips showed off the 6.1 kilowatts of solar photovoltaic, or PV, panels on the roof of Solar Source. Installing that much PV would cost about $40,000, Phillips says, and would be enough to take a large home off the power grid. He predicts that more and more electric car charging units will emerge during the next year.

In order to accomplish Phillips’ goal of carbon-neutral charging of electric cars, more homes and businesses will need to produce renewable energy. Solar Source is the largest solar contracting and distribution company in Florida and has been in business for 25 years, according to the president of their training subsidiary, Rick Gilbert. Last month, Solar Source Institute became the state’s first stand-alone solar renewable training school, Gilbert says, to be approved by the Florida Department of Education’s Commission for Independent Education, which oversees most vocational, technical, and trades schools.

Students in the classes learn how to install a range of solar systems including PV, attic fans, water heaters, and pool heaters.

Solar Source Institute trained many of the contractors who installed the only megawatt PV project in the southeast. About 6,000 PV panels, each one 2 feet by 4 feet, cover five to six acres on the roof of the Orange County Convention Center south of Orlando. Gilbert says it saves about $100,000 of electricity per month. Rachel Doll, Solar Source marketing director, says that there are even some experimental solar PV arrays installed on the Orange County Convention Center.

Solar Source

Solar Source Institute

Chevy Volt

Nissan Leaf

Florida Solar Energy Center

WMNF coverage of EPA Administrator announcing federal electric car initiative

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