About the Photovoltaics


Background

When we got our electric car, an important aspect to us was the fact that it was virtually pollution-free. When driving around, it generates no pollution whatsoever. However, when we charge the car, it uses electricity generated by various means, such as natural gas, coal, hydroelectric and nuclear generating plants.

Several people have done studies showing how much pollution is generated by the various power plants involved in the electric utility mix, and the bottom line is that EVs still pollute far less than a comparable internal combustion vehicle. We're planning to have details here as soon as I can get the data organized.

Despite the fact that our car was already a minimal pollution source, we wanted to set up a system that would take our car completely "off grid" -- Charging its batteries from a pollution-free source.

Don't Blame Us!

Another factor which was involved here is the fact that Wisconsin Electric, our electric utility in this part of the state, has had power supply problems over the last few years -- Too much demand and not enough supply, resulting in threats of rotating blackouts by the utility in the summer if consumers and businesses used too much electricity.

The last thing we wanted was to be singled out by our neighbors as being a reason for the blackouts, should they occur: "Aren't you the people with the electric car that's using all our electricity?"

Well, than won't ever be a problem now!

System Components

System Designer

Keith Johnson
St. Croix Solar Electric
P.O. Box 18
New Richmond, WI 54017

More To Come

We'll have more information here as we get time to write it up -- Until then, please email your questions to .


Frequently Asked Questions

How much power can you generate?

Our array consists of 28 51-watt photovoltaic modules, for a total of 1428 watts. There are some losses as the DC power from the panels is converted to 120-volt AC power, but we figure it's about 1300 watts of output, or around 11 amps.

What's the system's payback point?

Well, we doubt it'll ever really pay back its cost. The idea here is that there's a principle involved -- We want to show that it's fully practical to have most of our driving needs performed by a vehicle that does not pollute. It was hard to get this idea across to at least one of the PV system designers we talked to. They couldn't grasp the concept of putting in a system that wasn't absolutely necessary from an economic point of view. We simply found another system designer!

Is the PV system hooked directly to the car?

No, it's actually a bit more complex. The car isn't always using electricity during the day. If the PV system was hooked directly to the car, a lot of its generated energy would be wasted because the car wouldn't be using it when it was fully charged. What we do is connect the PV system directly into the house's wiring so that its generated energy is always being used somewhere in the house -- by the car (if it's charging), lights, TVs, etc. If we're not here and nothing's turned on, the generated power will go back out onto the "grid" and help power our neighbors' homes! The basic idea is, as long as the PV system is generating more power than the car's using, the car is pollution-free.


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This page last edited March 02, 2004