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Solar Canopy Provides EV Charging Off-Grid and Under the Sun

By: Emily Newton

Companies are repurposing street cabinets and experimenting with modular battery packs to offer electric vehicle charging stations. The industry’s creativity continues to expand to typical charging stations, taking them off the grid with renewable energy.

A prime example is California-based Paired Power, which has developed a solar-powered canopy paired with an EV charging station. 

Will this innovation relieve EV range anxiety? How can this solar canopy potentially assist with charging infrastructure expansion and alleviate grid pressures? 

The PairTree solar-powered charging station
The PairTree solar-powered charging station. Image used courtesy of Paired Power

What Is PairTree?

Numerous arguments surrounding building up charging infrastructure revolve around the antiquated grid’s ability to sustain a predominantly electrified population. PairTree eliminates this argument by installing an awning-like solar canopy above chargers, which uses renewable power from the sun to fuel the unit. This off-grid infrastructure will best support microgrids. 

The PairTree comprises bifacial solar panels, a competitive option for modern solar installations because of their heightened efficiency and generative potential. The panels pair with an external battery storage system for increased resilience, supporting an additional 42.4 kWh and 230 miles of power. It contains a UL 9450-listed lithium-iron phosphate battery with enough capacity to serve as a Level 1 or 2 EV charger.

The price for everything in the PairTree package ranges from $28,000 to $78,000, depending on the peripherals. A more substantial battery storage system warrants a higher price. The number of ports available increases installation costs, too, but it would save space.

Installing the PairTree.
Installing the PairTree. Image used courtesy of Paired Power

The company started installing PairTrees in late 2023. Each device only takes four hours to install. The structure’s foundation is ballasted steel and compact enough to fit into a parking spot. Expanding charging space beyond current means is only necessary if the area wants to accommodate more cars than it can already house. 

How Will EVs Benefit From PairTree?

Despite the solar canopy design, the panels and chargers are produced with strict standards to resist rapid winds, high temperatures, and heavy snow loads. Every year they are in operation, they become more cost-effective by generating a faster return on investment. In analyzing the life cycle assessments of bifacial panels, costs return in under two years.

The data from charging also connects and saves to the cloud, informing customers and operators how well the unit is performing. Paired Power promises the network supporting the structure is air-gapped, isolating it from external connections and protecting it from cyberattacks. Its distance from the greater grid adds another barrier against a rise in digital threats to critical infrastructure.

Why Are Bifacial Panels Ideal?

Most solar panels in the U.S. are monofacial, or one-sided, capturing only direct sunlight. Bifacial panels take advantage of reflected light by generating power from both sides. The albedo, or reflected light, is more valuable with bifacial setups than alternatives. 

Passivated emitter rear cell technology has made bifacial panels commercially viable. Under ideal conditions, they increase power generation by up to 40%, making the cost per mWh justifiable. Renewable energy installers and electronics engineers optimize generation by perfecting height, tilt, and tracking.

How bifacial solar panels work.
How bifacial solar panels work. Image used courtesy of ResearchGate

The panels do not have to operate exclusively off-grid, either. Engineers are designing them to be compatible both ways. If there are extenuating circumstances and the system needs more power, operators can connect it to the grid for an added boost. 

Power in the Solar Canopy

Many governments worldwide provide incentives and tax credits for expanding chargers. This may be the best time for the invention to arrive on the scene because upfront costs are less intimidating. Additionally, prices may reduce over time as they become more commonplace.

The grid is undergoing modernization, and its ability to facilitate new technologies varies with development. Chargers immediately amplify usefulness and sustainability when they leverage renewable energy. Solar panel makers and EV charging manufacturers must support each other to expand to meet consumers’ unprecedented sales demand.

Source: EE Power