Westport plan for solar-powered EV outlets on track
Updated 1:15 pm, Thursday, September 22, 2011
Plans to install electric vehicle charging outlets at the Saugatuck Metro-North train station are accelerating after the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved Wednesday the town's acceptance of a state grant to launch the project.
The town will use $13,500 from the state Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority to hire the Westport-based firm, Westport Solar Consultants, to conduct a feasibility study of installing a solar panel system on the eastbound platform roof at the station. Among the study's objectives, it will assess the strength of the platform roof and determine the number of EV charging stations that could be powered by a 30-kilowatt solar photovoltaic installation.
"The roof of that building is ideally situated for a solar system," said Westport Solar Consultants Principal John Rountree. "In the ideal scenario, there would be enough spaces for 20 cars to plug into a charging post fed from the building. The building would be fed from the utility and solar. It would be a combination of solar and utility power."
After Westport Solar completes its study, the town will present design plans for the solar facility to the state Department of Transportation, which must approve the project before installation work can begin at the train station.
Building Official Steve Smith said the town is eligible for additional funding from the Finance and Investment Authority, an allocation that would range from $54,000 to $109,000. He added that the town hopes to find a private-sector partner to assist in financing and installing the solar system, which will likely include about 130 panels. Smith did not have an estimate for the total cost of the project.
In addition to charging electric vehicles, the solar system would also provide electricity for the train station. Under a system known as net metering, the town could obtain electricity credit for excess power generated by the solar installation.
"This is great," said Selectwoman Shelly Kassen. "What could be a better example or more iconic than doing this at the train station, where many people will see it as they go back and forth on the trains?"
The project is part of a broader effort by town officials to promote electric vehicle use in Westport. Last month, the town's first public EV charging facility opened in the commuter lot next to Luciano Park. Earlier this year, another pair of charging stations opened at a commercial building at 495 Post Road East. In the coming months, new charging stations could be built at several other sites around town, including the downtown Baldwin parking lot.
Smith said the new charging stations would produce a net increase in the number of station parking spaces. Depending on EV use of the charging facilities, he said that gasoline cars could also be allowed to use the EV parking spots.
"We're not going to have any spaces sitting empty," he said. "If there's not an electric car there, we're not going to make it exclusive."
Smith added that he is "optimistic" that installation of the Saugatuck station solar photovoltaic system would begin by the end of the year.