New OMSI ‘Solar Canopy’ powers cars, bikes

If you’re running low on juice, steer your electric vehicle – including electric bike – over to OMSI, and get a fill-up from this new, unique charging station. Did we say unique? Yep! It’s powered by the sun …

Representatives of government and industry gather near the new “solar canopy” charging station constructed in OMSI’s south parking lot.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
If Portland is to become an electric-vehicle Mecca by 2020, as Mayor Sam Adams predicts, there’d better be a lot more places to charge up these vehicles’ batteries – like the new one just installed at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

The new “solar canopy” charging station was dedicated in the museum’s south parking lot on at high noon on July 30 – but just now is coming into service.

“This station will service electric cars, e-bikes, and most portable personal electronic devices,” said OMSI spokesman Lee Dawson. “This marks the first ‘solar canopy’ installation to be used to charge electric vehicles in North America.”

Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogan says that solar-powered charging stations, like the one being dedicated, is a solution to “global warming”.

County chair talks up renewable power
Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogan was all smiles, as he stood in the shade of the huge south-sloping canopy containing thousands of high-efficiency, double-sided solar cells.

“When we’re having tough times, it’s good to celebrate good news,” Cogan began.  “Today, at this event, this is big news, this is good news, and we’re really celebrating!

“Our community and our country have been struggling through the worst economy since the 1930s. Our species, and our planet, through global warming, are currently facing the biggest challenge to our survival that we have ever had,” Cogan went on. “Today, with this charging station, we offer a big part of the solution to both of these challenges.”

Cued up in the shade of the solar canopy, dignitaries await their turn to speak.

During the last year, the County Chair stated, he’s been involved with the Governor’s workgroup, with the aim of making Oregon a leader in electrically-powered vehicles. “I have learned that electric vehicles are a huge part of our solution to global warming – no matter what the source of power is.

“And, when the source of power is renewable power – like this glorious Oregon sunshine – the ‘win’ for the environment is monumental. The result is obvious; and it is not just a win for the environment, it is also a win for Oregon’s economy.”

This charging station, Cogan pointed out, was designed and constructed by Portland-based InSpec Group, using Sanyo solar cells which were manufactured in Salem, 45 miles away.

Saying he arrived from Japan just to attend the dedication, Mitsuru Homma, Executive Vice President of SANYO Electric Co., Ltd., praises the cooperative project.

Travels from Japan for dedication
“We are happy to present this Solar Canopy project,” Mitsuru Homma, Executive Vice President of SANYO Electric Co., Ltd., told the group gathered. “We hope that this will become a symbol for cooperation, and a noted landmark.”

The charging station is powered by 42 of Sanyo’s most powerful solar panels, explained Homma. “These are unique two-sided panels that can absorb light from both sides of the panel. The system can generate 19.1 Watts on a ‘standard’ day.”

These special solar cell panels generate electricity from both direct sun exposure, and from reflected light from below.

Steve Cox, chairman of OMSI’s Board of Trustees, takes a spin on the battery-powered, motor-assisted bicycles which Sanyo donated to the local museum.

Following his remarks, Homma presented three $2,200 Sanyo “Eneloop” battery- powered bicycles to OMSI. He said the company was donating the motor-assist hybrid bikes because of Portland’s reputation for being the most bicycle-friendly city in the nation.

The project is a joint venture of Sanyo North America Corporation, InSpec Group , and Portland General Electric, as well as the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Sanyo’s Aaron Fowles shows a Bicycle Charging Locker, in which bike riders can stow their gear – and also charge up their two-wheeler – for 50-cents per use.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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