Derick Farfan, engineer and large account manager for Progress Energy, demonstrates how Pinellas Park’s new plug-in electric vehicle charging station at Park Station works Sept. 11.
PINELLAS PARK – Electric vehicle owners traveling in Pinellas Park now can find a public charging station right along Park Boulevard.
The city of Pinellas Park and Progress Energy unveiled Sept. 11 the city’s newest charging station, built in the parking lot of Park Station at 5851 Park Blvd. The new station is one of 58 the power company is installing in Florida as part of a pilot project funded by a federal grant.
The effort is the answer to a “chicken or egg” debate on the gradually expanding market for electric vehicles and the eventual need for places to charge them, explained Michele Cavallo, senior account executive for Progress Energy.
“Are people going to buy the cars first and then you put in the infrastructure? Everyone decided it makes a lot of sense to put the infrastructure in places like this, right on Park Boulevard, right in the center of the community,” she said.
The first of Progress Energy’s public electric charging stations was installed in Pinellas Park in December, at the home for the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, at 4000 Gateway Centre Blvd. The council headed the regional collaboration Get Ready Tampa Bay, designed to prep the local community for the roll out of electric vehicles and, in turn, make it more attractive to future electric car owners.
Since then, Progress Energy has installed 38 charging stations within its Florida service territory, and 23 more are in the last stages of completion, said Wayne Greenhill, senior commercial energy adviser for Progress Energy. A little more than half of the total were slated for the Tampa Bay region.
The project, begun during the summer of 2011, is near completion.
“We’re getting very close,” Greenhill said.
The effort is, in part, a research project. For a year after each station’s installation, Progress Energy will monitor its usage and impact on the overall electric system. The city of Pinellas Park, along with other entities hosting the stations, will pay for the electricity usage, while the power company owns and maintains the station.
“After that term is up, we turn it over to the host,” Cavallo said.
At the end of the year, the city could decide to charge the public for the parking space, the possibility of which city officials said hadn’t been decided.
A U.S. Department of Energy grant, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, funded the $1 million installation project
The cost to install each 240-volt circuit charging station averages around $8,000, Cavallo said. The cost varies based on the parameters of the station, including distance to existing power, she explained.
Powering a vehicle via electricity instead of gas is 50 to 75 percent less expensive for consumers, with a typical overnight charge costing less than $1, according to a Progress Energy press release. Plus, the timing of such usage is less of a burden on the overall electricity grid, explained Derick Farfan, engineer and large account manager for Progress Energy.
“It does spin the meter, but it spins the meter more efficiently. It spins it off peak, and we have all this generation without the load. We encourage that. We encourage that kind of technology in the system,” he said.
The public charging stations won’t replace this overnight charging, but instead provide “opportunistic charging,” while driving around town, Farfan said.
“We love the technology. We love introducing people to it,” he added.
Aside from the one at Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, a public electric vehicle charging station also is available at Pinellas Park Public Library. For more information about the Get Ready Tampa Bay initiative, including a map of other charging stations in the area, visit www.getreadytampabay.org.