Using Renewable Energy

TestaTurbineSolarPanelGreenRoofA distinct benefit of driving electric vehicles is the capability of powering them with clean, locally produced solar and wind-generated sources of electricity. Public charging stations that incorporate renewable energy can be particularly appealing to environmentally conscious drivers. Renewable energy can power a charging station either by generating it at the location or participating in a utility’s green power program.

Use of renewable sources of electricity to power electric vehicles is encouraged to prevent pollution from energy generation and to keep energy spending in our local economy. Installing a solar array adjacent to a plug-in charging station demonstrates how natural energy from the sun can be used to power vehicles. This source of solar electricity is typically tied to the grid so power produced during the day can offset any power drawn at night to charge EVs. The solar power flows into the grid with a separate meter tracking how much electricity has been generated and simply offsets the grid power that is supplied to electric vehicles through the recharging supply equipment.

The second option is to take advantage of an electric utility’s green power program. For example, in Minnesota all the state’s electric utilities offer their customers the option to purchase renewable energy (primarily wind energy) to cover all or a portion of their electricity consumption. These purchases are shown on the bill as a renewable energy surcharge. To make charging 100 percent renewable, customers can purchase enough renewable energy to cover the estimated electricity that will be used for charging. The cost for using a utility-sponsored green power program to cover EV charging is relatively small. For instance, traveling 15,000 miles per year using only electricity will require approximately 4,285 kWhs (using a vehicle that can travel 3.5 miles per kWh). Typically, green power is sold in 100 kWh blocks with a typical surcharge of $1.50 – $3.50 per block. In this example, an electric vehicle owner would pay for 43 blocks of green power for an annual surcharge of between $65 and $150. Electric utility representatives can provide more complete guidance for each unique situation.

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