Title Image


Use of Solar Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Stations at San Diego Zoo on the Rise

  |   Electric Vehicles, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid

San Diego has one of the nation’s highest levels of electric vehicle drivers per capita. Results from a strategically placed infrastructure pilot project show the region’s interest in the technology. Five solar-to-electric vehicle (EV) charging stations located at the iconic San Diego Zoo in the heart of the city’s world-renowned Balboa Park have been increasingly used month over month.


The Solar-to-EV project launched by Smart City San Diego in September 2012 is one of the first of its kind in the world. The charging stations use energy from the sun to directly charge plug-in EVs, store solar power for future use, and provide renewable energy to the surrounding community.

Usage data collected at the charging stations since November 2012 show a steady increase in electricity consumed, the number of cars using the stations, and how often the stations are in use. The results also show that the chargers are used more on weekends than during the week, with Easter Sunday and Earth Day among the highest volume days. This pattern falls in line with the attendance at the Zoo. It also shows that driver awareness of the stations has increased.


Charging at the stations more than doubled from the first half of the pilot to the second half. The amount of cars using the station over the same time periods increased 72 percent from an average of 69 charges per month to 119 charges per month. Data also show an increase in the number of hours that stations were simultaneously in use.


“San Diego Zoo Global is proud to partner with CleanTECH San Diego and SDG&E to offer our customers the ability to charge their electric vehicles at the Zoo,” said Debra Erickson, San Diego Zoo Global director of communications. “The solar panels provided through this partnership are also an important educational tool and provide our guests with information on sustainable energy generation and how they can harness the sun to reduce their carbon footprint.”


“Our goal with pilot projects like this one is to deploy new clean technologies, see how people use and respond to them, and replicate successful case studies across the region and the world,” said Jason Anderson, CleanTECH San Diego president. “The popularity of the Solar-to-EV charging stations at the Zoo has proven San Diego’s leadership in the EV market and supports a greater mission of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while stimulating the clean transportation economy.”


These data are reflective of an overall increase in EV sales and drivers across the San Diego market. With almost 10,000 EV drivers and growing in the SDG&E service area, EV sales are up 130 percent this year over last year, savings equivalent to taking 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions off the road. The Solar-to-EV charging stations at the San Diego Zoo make up five of the 670 public charging stations throughout the region, and 20 fast charge stations that can charge an EV with this technology from zero to 80 percent in 20 minutes.


The site at the San Diego Zoo incorporates 10 solar canopies producing 90 kilowatts (kW) of electricity, as well as five EV charging stations. Using new battery technology, a 100-kW/100-kWh energy storage system is charged by the solar canopies and used to balance sunlight intermittency on overcast days. The storage system also offsets power demands on the grid, especially during peak hours, to charge the vehicles. When the battery is full, the excess solar energy that is generated is put onto the electric grid to improve reliability and benefit the surrounding community. The solar canopies also provide shade to approximately 50 cars in the Zoo’s southeast parking area. One of the project’s charging stations is located in a nearby ADA-accessible parking space.


“With nearly 10,000 local San Diego residents who drive plug-in electric vehicles, a number that is quickly growing, our region is at the forefront of electric vehicle technology and resources,” said James P. Avery, SDG&E senior vice president of power supply. “The San Diego Zoo Solar-to-EV project is a shining example of San Diego’s commitment to the continued growth of electric vehicle infrastructure.”


At peak production, the Solar-to-EV project produces enough energy to power 59 homes. The clean energy produced is equivalent to removing 189,216 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, or the same as planting 2,788 trees annually. For additional comparison, the greenhouse gas emissions savings from the electricity produced is equivalent to removing 21 cars from the road each year. Furthermore, EVs offer zero tailpipe emissions and no emissions overall when the electricity is directly from solar power.


The Solar-to-EV project not only aims to encourage EV drivers to visit the Zoo and Balboa Park, but also provides displays onsite and online to educate visitors about the usefulness of batteries that can store solar energy, the benefits of driving EVs, and the role that the system plays in driving sustainability forward. The system serves as a cornerstone in the San Diego Zoo’s ongoing efforts to encourage the application of sustainable design driven by science and the natural world.


The project is owned and managed by SDG&E. The charging stations are part of The EV Project and are owned by the program’s administrator.

Share this....