GE employees who drive electric cars or plug-in hybrids will have somewhere to plug in at work, charging at a 13-vehicle solar-powered carport the company installed at its Plainville, Conn., headquarters. The station is part of the company's plan to expand upon its role in electricity and embrace corporate sustainability initiatives. The solar charging station is one of the largest in North America, and the first in Connecticut.

The company is going to need these charging stations: GE employees who qualify for company cars will soon start getting Chevy Volts instead of standard sedans. The Volt is an extended-range plug-in hybrid car, which can run up to 40 miles on one charge. The company will be the first purchaser of a fleet of Volts, attempting to help the U.S. reach sales of 1 million electric cars by 2015, a goal set by President Obama.

Click the image below to watch a video of the GE's solar carport construction:

The parking lot's grand opening was marked with a peppy high school marching band and employees had decals reading "Pimp My Plug-In," adding a level of quirkiness to the morning.

GE combined forces with Inovateus Solar LLC to install the carport, which uses solar and smart grid technology to charge 13 cars fully each day. The stations charge up cars in six to eight hours.

By using solar power, GE avoids drawing down up to 108,000 kWh per year from the electrical grid, which is enough electricity to power 20 homes.

The carport has a large white awning, angled to optimize its exposure to light. This roof also provides shelter for the cars that can park next to the electric "pump" stations below.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy cited the role GE played in the electric car of 1912 before widespread gasoline-powered cars. This return to electric set up a peculiar scenario in his mind.

"In many ways, we are living that movie of the 1980s Back To The Future," he said.

The carport's solar panels consist of 425 polycrystalline silicon, 235 watt solar panels to harness the energy from the sun. The system costs about $7 per watt at 100,000 watts for all of the panels, a figure that represents two-thirds of the structure's total cost of about $1.5 million.

A GE Meter Socket Load Center tracks the energy generated for the carport owner and the utility. Solar inverters convert the DC power from the system to AC. Then GE Lighting Panels distribute the converted AC energy to the GE EV Charging Stations.

The carport itself has a large white awning, angled to optimize its exposure to light. GE's EverGold Solar System Components include NEMA 3R and NEMA 4X EverGold Combiner Boxes and NEMA 3R EverGold Safety Switches, both with a UL rating at 600VDC. The combiner boxes work by consolidating the wiring, and the safety switches provide an easy on/off access point.

In addition to this carport service for employees, GE this month is launching its Residential GE Watt Station that will allow for home charging from a 240 volt plug. Charging from a 240-volt plug is about twice as fast than from a standard outlet, which takes about 10 to 12 hours.

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