Going green

Published: Jul. 11, 2011 at 11:16 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 11, 2011 at 11:31 PM HST
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Tanay Panalal
Tanay Panalal

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's being billed as the "Carport of the Future". Car owners are slowly transitioning to electric vehicles -- to get around town, but before the rubber hits the road, instead of gassing it up, drivers have to charge it.

HECO engineer Tanay Panalal points out the nuances of this new, green technology.

"The purpose of this project is to utilize renewable energy and energy storage to charge an electric vehicle," says Panalal.

TFrom above, it doesn't look like much more than solar panels on a roof, but those panels are connected to a battery – which, in turn, is tied to an EV, electric vehicle, charger. The entire system is also connected to the Hawaiian Electric grid in case there's not enough solar energy to charge it.

Panalal adds, "And likewise, with the EV charging, if the battery is insufficient to charge the electric vehicle, to the amount that we need, it will, in essence, draw from the grid, as well."

EV owners will also be able to follow remotely, in real time, say, from a laptop, just how much electricity the sun is generating and how much energy their vehicle is using.

Ballpark figures for a carport like that is around 10 thousand dollars, but once the technology moves into the mainstream, they expect prices to drop. And any standard EV - whether it's the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, or the Mitsubishi I-car can use it.

As we transition to electric vehicles, there's a good, visual example of the issues we face right now. The large, round blue mosaic down at the state capitol rotunda has 650 thousand tiles, and each one of those tiles represents a passenger vehicle on Oahu. Experts are saying, to meet Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative goal by 2030, about half of the tiles - or in real terms, the cars - will have to become green. And with Hawaii often leading the nation in high fuel costs, HECO says customers are becoming more curious about EV technology.

HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg says, "Many people want to have solar on their carports. So, we're trying to find out, first of all, how it interacts with the grid so that we make sure we're protecting the grid AND providing reliable service."

Ultimately, the goal is to get consumers off HECO's power grid and into a cleaner ride.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.