The City of Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and UT-Battelle are the recipients of more than $1 million of a $100 million federal grant to expand the solar industry in Tennessee. Solar-powered charging stations for three locations should start being installed as soon as the ink is dry on the contract with the three participants.

chargepoint-lead01_0The City of Knoxville, the University of Tennessee and UT-Battelle are the recipients of more than $1 million of a $100 million federal grant to expand the solar industry in Tennessee.

That means solar-powered charging stations for three locations should start being installed as soon as the ink is dry on the contract with the three participants. UT-Battelle is the contractor managing Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will conduct research on solar use after the stations are installed.

The project is expected to be completed in June 2012.

“The city will participate in the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment and Research Project by acting as a test market for vehicle charging infrastructure,” said Susanna Bass, city program manager of sustainability.

Knoxville will get 10 solar charging stations for electric vehicles to be installed at two city-owned garages: Market Square Garage and Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum Parking Garage.

Ten will also go on the UT campus: Five are slated for the agriculture campus and five for the main UT campus. Another 25 will be stationed in Oak Ridge, said Billy Stair, director of communications of ORNL.

“It’s really part of a much bigger picture to develop the solar industry in Tennessee,” Stair said. “In the long term, the solar industry in Tennessee could be as big as the auto industry is today.”

Stair said Gov. Phil Bredesen has worked hard with Nissan to develop solar energy in Tennessee. Oak Ridge will study data from the solar-powered stations concerning how much electricity is used and when it’s used, Stair said. The Nissan plant is in Smyrna, Tenn.

Bass said there are no up-front costs to the city, but the city will have to pay for maintenance and operational costs once the stations begin operating.

Coinciding with the installation of the stations are the releases in December of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, both electric vehicles.

Stair said that currently these electric cars can only drive 100 miles until they need to recharge. ORNL is among the research facilities looking at developing a car that can drive 500 miles, and the first one to do it “will make a lot of money,” Stair said.

Bass said it’s difficult to determine consumer patterns regarding the use of electric vehicles, and that’s where ORNL research comes in.

The new solar-powered stations are in addition to a network of 350 charging stations now being installed in the Knoxville area. Those stations are powered by electricity and are a project supported by Knoxville, Knox County, ORNL, TVA and Knoxville Utilities Board.

Source: Rebecca Ferrar | Knoxville News Sentinel
Photo: Example of a plug-in hybrid charger for public places developed by Coulomb Technologies. (Credit: Kim Smith | General Motors)