*This is an updated version of the story published on Thursday
The NSW coastal shire of Ballina has become Australia’s first to boast a solar-powered public electric vehicle (EV) charging station, with the launch on Thursday of a 45kW “car shade” installation in a town south of Byron Bay.
The PV/EV charging station, which has been installed at Knockrow tourist attraction, Macadamia Castle, is also the first EV charging station on the Pacific Highway, and one of the largest solar installations on the Far North Coast.
The 45kW solar system, which has been built by Smart Commercial Solar, features 180 PV panels arrayed on a purpose-built car port structure, and will generate half of the Macadamia Castle’s energy needs while also charging visitors’ electric cars.
The Macadamia Castle’s owner, Tony Gilding, had initially planned to put solar on the roof of the Castle, but surrounding tree cover made this unfeasible.
Smart Commercial Solar suggested a solar car park structure as an alternative, with the added benefit of providing shade for visitor vehicles, aswell as a charging station for EVs.
“The advantage of a solar car park was immediately obvious to me because it can be placed in the best location to maximise the sun. Leaving aside the obvious environmental benefits, the business case for a solar car park is incredibly strong,” said Gilding.
“This Tony (as opposed to the Prime Minister) happens to think that solar is good for humanity. It is such a thrill for me to be setting an example of what is possible for small business despite the best attempts of fossil fuel companies to slow this inevitable swing to renewables.”
Greens NSW MP John Kaye, who attended the launch, described the project as a beacon for Australia’s green economic future.
“Solar panels and electric vehicles are the perfect match that are almost certainly going to play a key role in the energy systems of the next 50 years,” he said.
As we noted here in August, solar carports is yet another non-residential solar market that is yet to take off in Australia, despite a boom the US that has seen four consecutive years of more than 100MW of solar carports installed.
According to a report from Greentech Media Research, US Solar Carport Market 2014-2018: Landscape, Outlook and Leading Companies, America is forecast to add a total of more than 180MW of solar carports in 2014, up from 157MW in 2013, and the market could be worth nearly $850 million in the space of just two years.
GTM attributed the US market boom to falling PV system prices and a shift in the value proposition of these types of installations, as educational, government, and non-profit customers target savings on electricity bills.
“With the average system price of solar carports continuing to fall, commercial solar developers can offer increased value to customers in the form of larger project sizes and greater electricity savings,” said Scott Moskowitz, author of the report.
In Switzerland this year, transport and logistics firm Galliker Transport installed a massive 2721-module grid-connected rooftop system that shelters 2000 cars while producing 544,900 kWh of electricity – nearly 720 MWh in its first full year of operation – enough to cover 100 per cent of the energy needs of the building.