Electric Vehicles On This Campus Run Pure Green

Electric vehicle detractors love to deliver lectures about how EVs just substitute coal power for petroleum, providing little environmental benefit, which is only occasionally almost true and wildly off the mark in most cases.

To respond to these cranks, you can go into the number crunching that proves the case – or, if you live in Kalamazoo, Mich., you can plug in your EV at Western Michigan University.

western michigan university solar powered electric vehicle charging

image via The Green Panel

A 50-kilowatt solay array went online on campus this year, and now 15 EV charging stations are drawing power from the sun.

Two-hundred sixteen Mage Solar modules – from Georgia, by the way – are mounted onto 18 poles in a parking lot across from the university’s James W. Miller Auditorium. Coulomb Technologies supplied the 15 level 2 chargers, which are part of the ChargePoint Network the company is building with help from the U.S. Department of Energy.

And this is nifty: Whereas Web-based power displays are common for solar installations, we’ve never seen a Web-based EV charging station consumption display – until now. Check it out. You can see that in May, the array produced 5,246 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, of which 1,139 kWh went directly to power vehicles. For the year, as of yesterday afternoon the array had produced 22.4 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy, with just under quarter of that electricity – 5.25 MWh – used by the EV chargers.

Don’t worry about the power that doesn’t feed the chargers; the system is grid-tied, so it doesn’t go to waste.

The Clean Energy Coalition (CEC), a nonprofit funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and other state and private entities, provided the university a grant to help install the charging stations. It was Harold Glasser, executive director for campus sustainability at Western Michigan, who wrote the grant proposal that bagged the cash.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply June 12, 2012


    Great article! The only error I see in your reporting is that 28 kWh is a unit of energy and not power.

    • Reply June 12, 2012


      Indeed! Thanks for pointing that out, Matt. The passage has now been fixed.

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