Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pulaski carport taps into solar power for TVA, autos

A shaded parking area will turn into a mini-power plant today at a Pulaski manufacturing plant, in a move that solar advocates say represents the future of parking lots.
The carport-like facility, which has a roof made of solar panels, is a charging station for electric vehicles and will generate electricity for the grid.

It's touted for allowing property owners to take advantage of wasted space that potentially can generate power and revenue.

"You can park 12 cars under it," said Wilson Stevenson, president of Outpost Solar LLC, which built the facility.

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This project at Richland LLC manufacturing, 75 miles south of Nashville, is a small version of others the firm plans to build for businesses in Pulaski and Knoxville. Those will have spots underneath for 30 cars, Stevenson said.

A public ceremony with local, state and TVA officials is planned for 9:30 a.m. today at the site at 1905 Mines Road.

The 20 KW solar cell system could provide enough energy to power four homes, officials say. The components are American-made in the project that involves the state of Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pulaski Electric System and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The power generating charging station will be pumping out electricity, which TVA will buy, but won't, for the time being, service actual cars. Road-worthy electric vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, aren't out but are expected soon.

Network is needed

A network of charging stations at the ready like this first one in Pulaski are important to the cars' success, Stevenson said. Such facilities also could help reduce TVA's costly peak demand power by providing electricity to offset an electric car's need during summer days when use is high for air conditioners.

The highest demand times cause TVA to have to turn to more costly sources of electricity, which ultimately costs all ratepayers.

Jim Greene, Richland president, said this is an example of how "American small business and manufacturing are growing in the new 'green economy.' "

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