Parking lot gets car charger, solar array

Those passing through the Bedford Street parking lot in recent days may have been seen the solar array mounted on a support gantry there, part of a soon-to-be launched electric charging terminal for hybrid vehicles.

The 3 kilowatt power system, with spaces to charge two vehicles, is being installed using a $83,126 block grant from the federal Department of Energy, Erin McKenna, a city associate planner who oversaw the project.

Solar energy garnered from the panels would flow into the grid of the adjacent garage, McKenna said.

McKenna said the charging station is a step towards meeting expected demand from owners of electric vehicles, though initial use of other city managed charging stations put in operation in May has been infrequent.

The system will also include an display featuring a gauge showing resulting cuts in carbon dioxide emissions and the gallons of gasoline saved, according to Elliot Isban, chief executive officer of the project’s contractor, American Solar & Alternative Power.

“We wanted to put it in as prominent a place downtown as we could that wasn’t expected to have a big development soon that might put it in the shade,” McKenna said of the solar array. “The display will show how much energy the solar panels provide compared to the amount of energy used.”

While being charged, cars would be sheltered under the solar panels, Isban said.

Isban said he thought a commitment by Stamford and other cities and private businesses to seek opportunities to install electric charging stations was necessary to enable the public to use alternative fuel vehicles.

“People want to buy electric cars but there are very few electric charging stations so it is sort of a chicken or the egg type situation,” Isban said. “This will provide energy for 25 years with no moving parts, no noise, and no pollution. I think that’s elegant.”

In May the city completed installation of three free electric charging stations — one each at the Government Center and the Summer and Bell Street garages — as part of a Connecticut Light & Power’s two-year research study on how drivers charge electric vehicles.

A Danish insurance company last week flicked the switch on what it claims is the largest rooftop solar system in Northern Europe.

More than 3,000 solar panels have been installed at Topdanmark’s headquarters in Ballerup, Copenhagen, and they are expected to produce around 752,000kWh of electricity each year, enough to power about 200 households and reduce the corporation’s annual carbon emissions by 600 tonnes.

A statement on Topdanmark’s website said each panel produces as much energy in one year as was used in its production, meaning that with the panels expected to last about 40 years they should deliver a significant net reduction in carbon emissions.

The insurer decided to proceed with the investment after assessing a smaller installation at one of its commercial tenancies and undertaking what it described as “profound analysis of advantages and disadvantages investing in such a large solar cell system”.

The review concluded that declining production prices for solar panels, which dropped from $1.50 per watt in September 2010 to $0.60 by the end of 2011, ensured the business case for the project was viable.

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