Solar power for electric vehicles

The spotlight, or rather the sunlight, may soon shine on an overlooked piece of infrastructure in the downtown Baldwin Parking Lot.

Tony Eason, owner of Elektron Solar, a Westport business that specializes in solar photovoltaic system installations, wants to build a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station on an electrical shed in the town-owned lot on Elm Street. The facility would use a solar PV array on top of the brick shed to feed electric vehicles during two-hour charging sessions. Construction and maintenance of the 1.84 kilowatt EV charging station would be funded by Elektron Solar and revenue from a private sponsorship.

"It’s ultra-green and totally energy independent," Eason told the Planning and Zoning Commission during a Feb. 9 meeting. "You’re effectively replacing gasoline with solar-generated electricity. It leverages the private marketplace to invest in public infrastructure without the town giving up ownership."

The charging station would likely entail the town leasing the electrical shed to Elektron Solar. The building now holds lighting equipment for the lot.

Eason presented his plans to the P&Z during a pre-application hearing, an informal and non-binding review session.

Eason’s proposal reflects the increasing popularity of electric vehicles in Westport. Last July, two solar-powered charging stations installed by Elektron Solar opened at a commercial building at 495 Post Road East, the town’s first EV charging spot. A month later, Connecticut Light & Power opened a public EV charging facility powered solely by the electrical grid in a commuter lot at the Saugatuck Railroad Station.

At least two vehicles could simultaneously power up at the proposed downtown charging station, with Elektron Solar initially providing free service there. In its initial phase, the EV station would not include reserved parking spots.

The Elektron Solar installation in the Baldwin lot would generate annual electricity output worth about $350, Eason estimates. That electricity production would be credited to a town account and fund the use of the EV charging facility. On overcast days, the EV station would draw from the electrical grid; the cost of use on those days would be offset by solar-power credit in the town account.

If EV drivers consumed more than $350 of electricity at the charging facility, then Elektron Solar would charge users to pay for the additional energy costs, Eason said.

The Baldwin lot charging station would require the P&Z’s authorization of Elektron Solar’s lease of the electrical shed. The project may require additional approval from the P&Z, depending on the charging facility’s design, said P&Z Director Larry Bradley.

Eason said he plans to meet soon with Bradley to determine the next steps of his application process.