By Dan Rudt

photo by Dan Rudt

Despite prior predictions of rain, the sun was fully present Monday morning (August 8, 2011) along with politicians, business executives, reporters and area residents. They were gathered in a parking lot off Old Georgetown Road, just north of the Wildwood Shopping Center, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and demonstration marking the debut of Maryland’s first solar energy-generating, electric vehicle (EV) charging station.

Made in Columbia, Maryland by Advanced Technology and Research Corp (ATR), the new charging station differs from EV chargers installed elsewhere around the state. The unit is the first to include a 1,410 watt array of 6 solar panels equipped with ATR’s GPS-based sun-tracking technology atop an 18-foot tall steel pole. Two Level II car chargers are mounted to the pole to service two vehicles at once. The solar generated electricity is fed through a micro-inverter that converts the DC electricity to AC, then into the utility grid, from which the chargers, in turn, draw their electricity. The sun-tracking technology allows the solar array to follow the sun throughout the day. ATR claims this will enable the solar panels to generate at least 30% more electricity than fixed panels would generate.

The entire installation is very compact. The charging station demonstrated on Monday sits atop a narrow island in the parking lot. A shopping center or transit station parking lot could offer customers the use of these charging stations with a minimal space allocation.

Alvin L. “Tripp”Aubinoe III, President of Aubinoe Property Management, and part owner of the property at 10401 Old Georgetown Road, purchased the charging station. Aubinoe stated he anticipates a growing number of EVs in the area and wants to provide a service for patrons of the surrounding businesses while they shop. “I hope that my actions here will inspire others to take their own steps towards a more sustainable future,” Aubinoe said.

photo by Dan Rudt

According to Cynthia K. Hoes, property manager for Alvin L. Aubinoe Inc., the two chargers are fully operational now. An EV driver (or two) can simply pull up, attach the charger cables to their cars and visit adjacent offices and stores while adding miles to their EV batteries. The service is free at this time. Aubinoe intends to charge a fee, which has yet to be determined, at some point in the future.

The pole mounted, sun-tracking solar energy generator was produced with the assistance of a $1.1 million Clean Energy Economic Development Initiative (CEEDI) grant that the Maryland Energy Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy awarded ATR last July. In addition to the EV charging station, the grant, which uses federal stimulus funds, helped enable ATR to develop sun-tracking solar power producing generators that mount on parking lot and highway light poles, a post mounted solar unit for residential use, and a system that attaches to a wind turbine to create a hybrid electrical generating unit.

Speakers at the Monday morning ceremony, in addition to Tripp Aubinoe, included Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, ATR Founder and CEO Dr. Jackson Yang, Baltimore-Washington Electric Vehicle Initiative Executive Director Jill Sorensen, Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman and other government and ATR officials.

Governor O’Malley, a supporter of renewable energy and electric vehicles, spoke of the importance of “creating the high-tech jobs of tomorrow, using innovation and imagination to expand opportunity.” He called ATR’s sun-tracking charging station, “the very embodiment of an imagination economy” and said he was “pleased that ATR is innovating and manufacturing new green technologies right here in Maryland.”

Dan Rudt is a former radio news anchor and public affairs program host for WPGC-AM, and producer for Westwood One Radio Networks. He is currently a freelance writer/reporter in Montgomery County, Maryland covering the “green” beat.