This article was originally published by Sarah Wray on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.
The City of Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, Georgia has launched a new solar roadway system that produces energy for an electric vehicle (EV) charging station at city hall.
Separately, the city has also revealed a new EV fast-charging plaza for up to 16 vehicles. The plaza is the inaugural project in Peachtree Corners’ new EV strategy, which could serve as a model for other cities.
The solar roadway is on a section of an autonomous vehicle test lane in the city’s Curiosity Lab real-world testing environment and has been provided through a partnership with The Ray, a non-profit proving ground in Atlanta.
The new system should produce more than 1,300 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually for a Level 2 EV charger at city hall, available at no cost to EV motorists. The charger is also equipped with an energy storage system for night-time charging.
In the future, it could power streetlights and other city infrastructure, as well as back-up for grid outages, the city said.
Solar road initiatives and trials have been launched in countries such as China and France but this installation represents the first public road deployment in the US.
Brandon Branham, Chief Technology Officer and Assistant City Manager of Peachtree Corners, told Cities Today: “This application is also the first time that the solar roadway is being used as the sole power source for an electric vehicle charging station, and not just feeding the grid with supplemental power.”
Early results from pilots elsewhere have cast doubt on the efficacy of solar roadways. Following a three-year government-backed trial of Wattway’s panels along a kilometer-long test road in Normandy, France, reports last year said the technology wasn’t economically viable or energy efficient.
The Wattway panels have now been engineered to be more durable and efficient, which the company says has resulted in a 21 percent performance increase.
Wattway is running new trials in Normandy and also using Curiosity Lab to test the latest version. More of the panels, which are glued on, could be added to sidewalks, bike lanes , and other surfaces in the future.
On the potential to power other city infrastructure, Branham said: “This type of scale has not been proved elsewhere and is what makes this test at Curiosity Lab so invaluable, as everything from power generation to installation and maintenance will be monitored and tweaked to achieve scalability.”
Allie Kelly, Executive Director, The Ray, added: “In the near term, urban areas like Peachtree Corners might be more relevant and resilient for solar roadways deployment than highways and interstates. You can immediately pair the energy generation with important uses like charging docks for electric bikes and scooters, and even lighting and smart city infrastructure. Conversely, solar roadways at scale on interstates [are] essentially dependent on a good connection to the utility grid, which is not always present and may create significant costs for so-called ‘interconnection’.”
Taking the EV initiative
In a separate initiative, Peachtree Corners has opened a new EV fast-charging plaza that can fast-charge up to 16 vehicles simultaneously. The deployment is the first measure from the city’s new electrification plan, developed with e-mobility consultancy Hubject Consulting.
Hubject’s analysis identified that Peachtree Corners was essentially “an EV fast-charging desert,” particularly considering the growing electric vehicle ownership in and around the city. The company analyzed the city’s residential, business, and retail layout, as well as traffic patterns and electrical capacity to identify the ideal location for the charging plaza, which is situated at Peachtree Corners Town Center.
Twelve Tesla V3 Superchargers are now operational at the plaza as well as four universal charging stations. Two 350 kW chargers, and two 150 kW chargers, will go live in the new year. By early January, the plaza will be capable of charging all types of EV models. It will be one of the largest public charging facilities in the state of Georgia and the largest in the Metropolitan Atlanta area.
The chargers were funded by the charging network providers.
Model for electrification
Thomas Doran, Senior Director of Hubject North America, commented: “We hope that this project with Peachtree Corners will inspire other municipalities nationwide to actively begin planning their city’s electric vehicle infrastructure, ensuring residents and businesses are able to easily electrify.”
“More than 55,000 vehicles a day will pass by the new charging hub via the main corridor, reflecting our initiative’s immense impact on the larger region, in addition to Peachtree Corners residents,” added Brian Johnson, City Manager of Peachtree Corners. “Not only is this a significant economic driver for our city, attracting retail and other related activities, but it’s also serving as a model for other communities across the nation to follow as electrification continues to expand.”
The partnership between Hubject and Peachtree Corners is set to continue into 2021 and activities will include additional grant-funded electrification projects and other EV charging efforts.
“As one of the first real-world smart cities in the country, we pride ourselves in leading the way with ‘firsts’ – from fully autonomous electric shuttles driving alongside regular vehicles, the world’s first fleet of teleoperated e-scooters deployed for residents to now the largest EV charging hub in the entire Metro Atlanta area,” said Branham. “With the help of Hubject and our partners, we were able to create an advanced infrastructure plan that further reinforces us as a model for the American city of the future – embracing the latest emerging technologies to better the lives of residents.”
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