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Can Solar Canopies Help Plug The EV Energy Gap?

By Jamie Hailstone

As sales figures for all-electric and hybrid vehicles continue to climb, the question of whether grids can cope with the increased demands remains as pertinent as ever.

This was highlighted by the recent Flex Alert issued by the Californian Independent System Operator, which called on residents to avoid charging electric vehicles on the evening of 31 August, in order to ease the burden on the grid during the recent heatwave.

Recent reports have indicated that the United States needs 20 times more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations than what’s available today. And according to Tom McCalmont, the CEO and co-founder of Paired Power, if California’s 15 million cars and 15 million trucks and buses were fully electrified, they would require 400TWh of energy every year, which far exceeds the 270TWh of energy produced on the state’s grids in the same time period.

“The amount of energy that’s needed to move electric vehicles is more than is available in the grid,” said McCalmont.

As well as grid capacity issues, McCalmont added there have also been lengthy delays in terms of getting the necessary permits to deploy the charging infrastructure, which is needed to support EVs. He said in order to meet the growing demand, it is necessary to find a “complementary solution” like off-grid charging.

The best way to describe this concept is imagine a mini-power station in your own home, and instead of charging your EV from the grid, it is powered directly from solar panels or a battery instead. But installing solar panels on your rooftop is not without its challenges, as McCalmont pointed out. He said some roofs are not “structurally adequate” and it can be difficult to install solar panels on some older buildings.

But there is an alternative to rooftop panels – solar canopies. Paired Power has just launched its new, transportable solar canopy, PairTree, with built-in EV charging capabilities. PairTree can be installed within a single workday with just two workers using standard hand tools and without lengthy permit approvals or heavy equipment.

McCalmont said the installation process is at least 30 times faster than conventional solar canopies, which require an extensive permitting and construction process. The solution is designed to fit a variety of applications, including EV charging access in locations that have either maxed out their local grid capacity or that lease their property and don’t want to invest in permanent infrastructure, such as workplaces and retail locations. PairTree also can provide emergency backup power and temporary power for events.

The ballasted steel foundation allows customers to avoid costly foundation work and permitting delays and can be deployed anywhere in the U.S. and globally as it can withstand various climates and environmental conditions. It is designed to optimize EV charging loads to deliver up to 75 miles of daily range to an EV, well above the U.S. daily commuter national average of 30 miles, according to a 2022 McKinsey & Company Report.

For greater resiliency and reliability, PairTree also supports the integration of up to 40 kWh of LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries.

“One of the biggest benefits of PairTree’s solar canopy design and model is that you can start charging on day one,” continued McCalmont. “EV charging is no longer a fringe benefit for any location where a car might park; it’s quickly becoming a service that both average citizens and employees expect. There are various reasons why site owners don’t want to wait or might have restrictions on grid-connected EV charging or conventional solar canopies, and PairTree is the solution to bring any location quickly into the EV future.”

Source: Forbes