At the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, we find a microcosm of what could be the future of garages. Under the cover of the "SolarPort" resides as many as 39 Toyota RAV4 EVs. They charge their batteries using nothing but the sun's power captured by solar panels on the roof. The excess power they generate is routed to the Civic Auditorium, offsetting their electric bill each month, and since they generate 44,400 Kilowatt-hours of power per year (for comparison, the average house uses 4000-8000 KW-hours per year), that was clearly a wise move. As you notice by the shots of the EVs (as well as the dust collecting on the charge terminals), these are not new RAV4s. This is a system that has been functioning for a couple years now, which seem to be going by without extensive maintenance. The project was paid for by the City of Santa Monica, Edison Technology Solutions, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission, and the Utility Photovoltaic Group (now the Solar Electric Power Association), and built by Solar Unity Company, Inc.

This is an excellent demonstration of using resources to their full efficiency. Imagine having a carport similar to this at a suburban apartment complex. When the residents are not charging their vehicles (whether they be plug-in hybrids or full EVs), excess solar power is sent to the building's grid, or an emergency backup battery system, like a U.P.S. for an entire building. It could not be cleaner toward the environment, and it's free, depending on how you look at it. Your transportation costs are now part of your electric bill, which is supplemented by a free, unlimited energy source. As soon as some popular, marketable electric cars are released to the consumer, these innovations will become even more viable. Too bad it's taking so long for the rest of the world catch on to what the Santa Monica Civic Center has had for years.

More details to come.

[Source: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium]

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