General Electric and Inovateus Solar are working together to offer solar-powered carports equipped with charging stations for electric cars -- a concept that enables large-scale EV charging in commercial and corporate parking lots without a huge draw on the grid.
GE makes EV chargers and combiner boxes for solar power systems, and Inovateus makes solar-powered carports. Their partnership, announced today at the Greenbuild conference, dovetails GE's expanded R&D relationship with Nissan to develop technology that will link electric cars, homes and ideally residential renewable power sources with a smarter grid.
EV charging stations are beginning to sprout up in the United States as the push for electric cars accelerates. With that effort, however, comes a growing concern that a surge in EV adoption will overload the existing power grid unless something is done to manage when charging occurs -- or to offset or entirely avoid such a drain.
By integrating EVs into home energy systems, an electric car could serve as potential power source to "give back" to the grid when necessary. With solar power also in a home, the energy system could supplement the grid rather than draw from it. A solar-powered carport charging system could do the same.
GE's partnerships enable the company to plant two more stakes -- one for commercial applications and one for residential -- into the market for electric car support systems and networks.
"I think we have a unique offering here," said Chris Bowler, marketing leader for GE Energy Industrial Solutions. "It provides a solution as a system. That's the thing that's important -- a solution that's also a system."
From the customer's point of view, a solar carport with EV charging can "help kill two bird with one stone" by providing a way for companies to meet goals for use of renewable energy and give their employees or clients access to EV charging, Bowler said.
In the Eating Your Cooking Department, GE put the idea to work at its facility in Plainview, Connecticut, where GE and Inovateus built a 100-kilowatt solar carport with 16 slots for EVs to power up (pictured below).
At 190 feet long, 50 feet wide and 14 feet high, the carport is among the larger structures of its kind in North America. However, there's talk of developing a solar carport for EVs at megawatt scale for a well-known sports venue, although Bowler said he could not provide details.
Typically, most roadside EV stations can accommodate two to four cars. The solar-powered 'juice bars' planned by GE and Inovateus could be designed to serve as few as one or as many as 20 EV cars at a shot.
Photos courtesy of GE.