Solar PV to EV at San Diego Zoo

December 13, 2012
San Diego Zoo solar

The San Diego Zoo Solar to EV project features 10 solar canopies that produce 90 kilowatts of power for EV charging.

For all of those who dream about having a solar photovoltaic (PV) system provide the power to charge an electric vehicle (EV), check out this PV to EV install at the San Diego Zoo.

A Solar-to-EV project at the zoo includes a new 90-kilowatt system made up of 420 Kyocera 245-watt KD245GX panels spread over 10 canopies and producing enough energy to power 59 homes and five EV chargers. The system sends energy to the grid and to a lithium-polymer battery system that stores 100 kilowatt hours of energy to charge the EVs after sunset.

Two banks of Kokam lithium polymer batteries store 50 kWhs each, and when full, excess energy is put into the grid. Lithium polymer batteries, though expensive, are being considered for many plug-in EVs. The Blink Level 2 chargers use 30 amps at 208 to 240 volts each, or about 6.2 to 6.6 kw. The solar canopies also provide shade to approximately 50 cars in the zoo’s southeast parking area.

“This project showcases how energy storage, electric vehicle charging and solar energy can be successfully integrated, providing benefits to the public while remaining environmentally sound,” says Linda Strand, president and CEO of Independent Energy Solutions (IES) in Vista, Calif., which designed and installed the solar canopies and battery storage system. The Solar-to-EV project, in partnership with Smart City San Diego, is run by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

Having five charging stations should be just a start, of course. “Experts say that by 2020 we could see more than 200,000 plug-in EVs in our region,” said Jim Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E, in a previous press release. “The Zoo has been forward-thinking about creating a sustainable future for our children to enjoy, so collaborating on this solar project was a natural fit.  It will demonstrate new technology, and provide guests with a way to charge their EVs with clean energy while they visit the zoo.”

According to IES, this was the first PV to EV installation the company has done, though it does quite a lot of solar and has done EV and battery storage installations. A charge controller will be programmed to handle charging and dispatching of energy, and SDG&E will monitor this closely and make any necessary adjustments.

Such PV to EV systems may be too costly for home installations today, especially if employing battery storage for charging at night. But the 30 percent federal tax credit and state and local incentives make solar PV much more affordable. Level 2 (240-volt) EV chargers that can charge EVs in a few hours can be had for $1,000 or less, plus installation. And a basic grid-tied solar system alone could offset much of the electricity used by an EV charger. Of course, there are also solar leasing and PPA (power purchase agreements) making solar an affordable option as well. SolarCity has added EV charging to its leasing model.

The clean energy produced by the Solar-to-EV project is equivalent to removing 189,216 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, or the same as planting 2,788 trees annually. For additional comparison, the greenhouse gas emissions savings from the electricity produced is equivalent to removing 21 cars from the road.

All Kyocera solar panels used in this project were manufactured the company’s San Diego facility.

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