September 5, 2012 (San Diego) – Smart City San Diego and the San Diego Zoo today announced they will install a solar photovoltaic canopy that will charge electric vehicles (EV) in the Zoo parking lot. Smart City San Diego is a collaboration that combines the resources of San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), City of San Diego, GE, UC San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego to drive projects forward that improve the region’s energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and assert San Diego as a clean energy leader.
“The Smart City San Diego Solar-to-EV project is a prime example of what can be achieved by combining the talent, resources and commitment of a diverse group of public and private sector organizations,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders, City of San Diego. “Housed at the San Diego Zoo, one of our region’s most celebrated landmarks, this project will further demonstrate our clean energy leadership to the rest of the world.”
The Solar-to-EV project began construction on Sept. 4. One of the first of its kind in the region, the project will harness energy from the sun to directly charge plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), store solar power for future use and provide renewable energy to the surrounding community. Located at the iconic San Diego Zoo in the heart of the city’s world-renowned Balboa Park, the Solar-to-EV project will serve as a new energy infrastructure blueprint that can be replicated throughout the region and beyond.
“Experts say that by 2020 we could see more than 200,000 plug-in EVs in our region,” said Jim Avery, senior vice president of power supply for SDG&E. “The Zoo has been forward-thinking about creating a sustainable future for our children to enjoy, so collaborating on this solar project was a natural fit. It will demonstrate new technology, and provide guests with a way to charge their EVs with clean energy while they visit the Zoo.”
The project will incorporate 10 solar canopies producing 90 kilowatts (kW) of electricity, as well as five EV charging stations. Using new battery technology, a 100-kW energy storage system will be charged by the solar canopies and used to offset power demands on the grid to charge the vehicles. When the battery is full, the excess solar energy that is generated will be put onto the electric grid to improve reliability and benefit the surrounding community. The solar canopies also provide shade to approximately 50 cars in the Zoo’s southeast parking area. One of the project’s charging stations is located in a nearby ADA-accessible parking space.
At peak production, the Solar-to-EV project will produce enough energy to power 59 homes. The clean energy produced is equivalent to removing 189,216 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, or the same as planting 2,788 trees annually. For additional comparison, the greenhouse gas emissions savings from the electricity produced is equivalent to removing 21 cars from the road each year. Furthermore, PEVs when driven on electricity offer zero tailpipe emissions and no emissions overall when the electricity is directly from solar power.
The Solar-to-EV project not only aims to encourage EV drivers to visit the Zoo and Balboa Park, but will also provide displays onsite and online to educate visitors about the usefulness of batteries that can store solar energy, the benefits of driving EVs, and the role that the system plays in driving sustainability forward. The system will serve as a cornerstone in the San Diego Zoo’s ongoing efforts to encourage the application of sustainable design driven by science and the natural world.
“As part of our ongoing effort to be a conservation leader, San Diego Zoo is delighted to be part of a project that sets the stage for the future," said John Dunlap, Director of the San Diego Zoo. "By providing a sustainable energy mechanism at a well-known destination like the Zoo, we are not only raising awareness for this technology but we are making this option available to guests that we host from all over the world.”
The project will be owned and managed by SDG&E’s Sustainable Communities Program, which promotes local solar installations and green building design and construction throughout the region. The charging stations are part of The EV Project and will be owned by the program’s administrator. In keeping with Smart City San Diego’s economic development goals, the project will use local vendors for design and construction and create 35 jobs during construction.