Solar energy powers co-op’s new electric vehicle chargers - Great River Energy

Solar energy powers co-op’s new electric vehicle chargers

A Southern Minnesota electric cooperative is now providing electric vehicle (EV) drivers the opportunity to quickly “fuel” up at its headquarters with its newly installed fast-charging stations that come with an added bonus: A renewable form of locally produced energy is the source of power.

Owatonna-based Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric, one of Great River Energy’s 27 member-owner cooperatives, recently installed two direct-current (DC) fast chargers in the parking lot of its front entrance, allowing four EVs to charge simultaneously.

Minnesota’s electric cooperatives have invested in several EV charging infrastructure projects to help people go farther than they could before, but Steele-Waseca’s project is unique in that it chose to install chargers a step above the Level 2 stations often found at public charging locations.

“We have wanted to install chargers for quite some time,” said Steve Nordahl, Steele-Waseca’s systems technician. “The cost of the DC chargers was relatively low, so we could install them at a fair cost and not have to install the slower Level 2 chargers, which are more commonly found at a resident’s home garage for overnight charging.”

Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric’s solar garden is the source of power supplying the cooperative’s new direct-current electric vehicle fast chargers during the day.

While charging time at Steele-Waseca’s stations will vary depending on the EV model, drivers can expect to add 30-40 miles to their range every 15 minutes when plugged in.

“The benefit of a DC faster charger will bring people needing a charge off the freeway to use our stations,” said Nordahl, who noted already one EV driver who stopped to fuel up on his way to Austin, Minnesota, from the Twin Cities and stopped again on his way home.

Those who charge at Steele-Waseca’s headquarters during the day will also take advantage of the cooperative’s nearby solar garden — which also includes a pollinator habitat — being the source of power supplying the stations.

“Steele-Waseca sees this as a great way to provide renewable energy to the car market to achieve carbon-dioxide emissions reductions.”

— Steve Nordahl, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric systems technician

Part of the project’s funding was provided by Great River Energy, Steele-Waseca’s wholesale energy supplier, as well as Energy Conservation and Optimization funds.

Great River Energy Member Electrification Strategist Rodney De Fouw said he considers this project a potential case study for the cooperative’s full membership to learn from.

“We feel information gathered from Steele-Waseca’s project will help us — all of Great River Energy’s members and member-consumers — learn more about the DC fast charger installation process and behind-the-scenes work needed to accommodate chargers of similar size that may be deployed into future fleet or workplace settings in the future,” De Fouw said.

Steele-Waseca’s chargers are available for public use with charging rates available to view on PlugShare.

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