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Station charges electric vehicles
Solar firm offers free facility use
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Les Seagraves, vice president of marketing for Wheego Electric Cars, brings a Wheego to the recent opening of a charging station at Solar Energy USA. - photo by Jim Dean

A south Forsyth business is offering more than roofing products.

Solar Energy USA, which sells solar energy panels for roofs, has unveiled its new electric vehicle charging station.

Michael Chance, a spokesman for the company, said the station is open to anyone with an all-electric or hybrid vehicle.

“There’s no fee. It’s free,” he said. “We’re just trying to spread awareness and educate people about solar energy and electric vehicles.”

Chance said the station is a “Level II” charging station, meaning it can charge a vehicle in about half the time of a standard household outlet. Charging time varies by vehicle but typically takes at least three hours.

The station is powered completely through solar panels on the company’s roof.

“We have 155 panels on the roof. We overproduce [electricity], so we’re able to have this,” Chance said. “People are free to come by here 24/7.”

Perry Bell, president of Solar Energy USA, said he was excited about offering the station.

“We feel like it’s an event because we wanted to demonstrate how you can power with solar and demonstrate the efficiencies of electric vehicles,” Bell said. “We want to help people understand what the options are.

“We figured what better way to use that extra power than to give back to the community.”

Several electric vehicle enthusiasts attended the recent opening ceremony. Among them was Les Seagraves, vice president of marketing for Wheego Electric Cars.

Seagraves said the Wheego is a 100 percent electric vehicle, with a look similar to the Smart Car.

He predicted other electric charging stations like the one at Solar Energy USA will probably pop up in the future.

“I think they’ll definitely become more and more popular,” he said. “There’s nothing more exciting than realizing you don’t have to use gasoline.”

Greg Crittenden, CEO of Metro Plug-In, the company that sold Solar Energy USA its station, said more businesses are learning about electric vehicle charging stations.

“The interest level is skyrocketing,” he said. “I talk to several businesses a week, but many of them are still waiting before pulling the trigger.”

He said for many the installation costs often cause some hesitation.

“When they hear [the station] is only $1,500 to $2,000, they’re all ready to go,” he said. “But then they hear the installation costs.”

Crittenden said wiring for the system can cost up to $15,000.

But he hopes tax credits will be an incentive for more businesses to install the stations.

“President Obama just signed a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government for 2012,” he said. “And Georgia had a credit for commercial installers of up to 10 percent of the cost or $2,500, whichever is higher.”

Bell said he and his company are happy to share their resources.

“We want to contribute to the overall stations that are available because we think we’ll see a lot more of these vehicles on the road soon,” he said.