Solar Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles to be Tested Across Tennessee

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the Electric Power Research Institute and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Friday announced that they will test and deploy solar-assisted charging stations for electric vehicles across the state of Tennessee as part of one of the largest electric transportation projects in U.S. history.

Speaking at an event in Knoxville introducing the Nissan LEAF, a 100 percent electric, zero-emission vehicle, TVA Chief Executive Officer Tom Kilgore said that the first prototype charging station using solar-generated electricity will be tested at EPRI’s Laboratories for Electric Transportation Application in Knoxville this spring.

A second prototype will be built by ORNL in Oak Ridge. The prototypes will be tested for three to six months before expanding and constructing additional stations in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville over the next few years.

“These new cars will need a new type of “filling station,” Kilgore said, “and we’ve been working with our partners at Nissan, the state of Tennessee, the city of Knoxville, the Electric Power Research Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knoxville Utilities Board and other utilities to create these filling stations for the future.”

"This project will bring substantial benefits to our region, and we at ORNL welcome this opportunity to support DOE and eTec to advance our vision for sustainable mobility," said Director of ORNL Thomas Mason.

This regional electric vehicle initiative is being done in conjunction with the Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation, e-Tec, which has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to accelerate the development and production of electric vehicles in several states. DOE also is providing funding to ORNL for its involvement in the solar-assisted charging station project.

The solar-assisted charging stations will use the sun to generate power needed to offset the charge of the electric vehicles during peak power demand periods. While vehicles are charging, the stationary batteries and smart grid controls will provide additional localized support to mitigate any impacts on the power system.

TVA is working with EPRI and regional partners on the design of these charging stations. EPRI will help TVA and other partners share the design and best practices gleaned from this research to begin developing an efficient nationwide charging network for electric vehicles.

EPRI is an independent, non-profit organization that conducts research about the generation, delivery, and use of electricity.

“Electrifying transportation is an important step in achieving a low-carbon future,” said Arshad Mansoor, Vice President of Power Delivery and Utilization at EPRI. “The solar assisted charging stations that are being developed by TVA in partnership with EPRI, ORNL and distributors will help accelerate deployment of electric vehicles in the region.”

The first prototype station will have four to six parking “spaces,” but larger 10- space stations are expected to be built in the future using a modular base design.

TVA also is working closely with KUB and other distributors of TVA power to conduct research to understand the impacts of vehicle charging on the power grid.

The solar-assisted stations will complement the standard home, commercial, public and fast-charging infrastructure needed to support the Nissan LEAF and more electric vehicles.

TVA is the nation’s largest public power provider and is completely self-financing. TVA provides power to large industries and 157 power distributors that serve approximately 9 million consumers in seven southeastern states. TVA also creates economic development opportunities and manages the Tennessee River and its tributaries to provide multiple benefits, including flood damage reduction, navigation, water quality and recreation.