Wind-Powered EV Charger Gets A Go In Spain

Urban Green Energy and GE have teamed up on the first installation of an integrated wind-powered EV charging station, in Spain. The companies say more such stations will be coming “later this year in the U.S. and Australia at shopping malls, universities and other locations.”

But here’s a question: Can wind reliably power a level 2 electric-vehicle charging station in an urban setting? Well, not really — not directly at a given point in time, at least. But it might be able to produce enough energy over months and years to offset the electricity it takes to drive thousands of EV miles.

sanya skypump ev charger

image via GE

The Sanya Skypump was installed outside Barcelona by UGE Iberia, the Spanish arm of New York-based Urban Green Energy, at the headquarters of Cespa, an evironmental services subsidiary of Ferrovial Servicios, which calls itself “the world’s leading transportation infrastructure investor.”

The turbine is a vertical-axis UGE-4K, and it’s connected to a GE Durastation, which is apparently the international version of the WattStation sold in the United States.

One of the first things that comes to mind in assessing the setup is the height of the 4-kilowatt turbine. The Distributed Wind Energy Association has a saying: “Putting a small wind turbine on a short tower is like putting a solar system in the shade.”

The turbine in question here is on a 42-foot pole, well under the minimum 60 feet recommended by the DWEA. And just looking at pictures provided by the companies, you can see buildings (the charging station, for one) and tall shrubbery in the immediate area of the turbine. That can make a big difference: “a 5 kW residential wind turbine on a 35-foot tower in an open area might produce 1,200 kilowatt-hours annually in a moderate wind regime, but the same turbine on a 115-foot tower would generate 9,000 kWh per year,” according to the DWEA.

That might not bode well for consistently achieving the cut-in wind speed – the speed where the turbine begins to produce power — of 7 mph that UGE specifies for the 4K.

Plus: Even in 18 mph wind – a pretty good wind – UGE says the turbine will put out just a bit over 1 kW of power – not nearly enough to allow the turbine to power the GE unit to its level 2 charging capability (7.2 kW, based on GE’s spec of 240 volts at 30 amps).

That would suggest that the grid is going to be doing a lot of the work in charging these vehicles that plug into the station – which actually will be OK, if the turbine is also giving back to the grid when the charging station isn’t in use. UGE says the turbine will produce 6,000 kilowatt-hours of power in a year with an average wind speed of 12 mph. That seems unlikely to be out of reach at the Spain site; if the unit produces, say, 3,000 kWh, at 3 miles of travel per kilowatt-hour, that’s equivalent to the amount of power an EV would need to drive 9,000 miles.

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.