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Car Charging Outlets Coming to Law School

South Royalton — Vermont Law School will soon have a solar-powered electric car charging station, the school’s first step toward implementing sustainable energy initiatives.

The station, which will be open to the public, is being paid for in part by grants from Green Mountain Power and the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund .

The 9.2 kilowatt photovoltaic system was part of a “package deal” that included the charging station, according to Kevin Jones, a professor and head of the school’s Smart Grid Project, which works to optimize energy usage. The project costs $39,800 and will be owned by the school.

“We want to spearhead this change,” said President Marc Mihaly, who owns a hybrid electric car . “We think that providing electric outlets is the simplest and easiest way to encourage people to own electric vehicles.”

The free charging station, which is scheduled to go online later this month, will have five outlets: two will be 240 volts, and three will be 120. A 240-volt outlet should fully charge a vehicle in about three hours, Jones said.

Although the solar array should generate enough energy on its own to power the charging stations, the station will be connected to the Green Mountain Power grid . The upside to that, Jones said, is that cars would be able to be charged at night.

The law school’s station will be the first in the Upper Valley, according to www.chargepoint.com, which maps charging sites throughout North America. Currently, the closest charging stations are in Montpelier and Londonderry in Vermont and Concord in New Hampshire.

Dotty Schnure, a spokeswoman for Green Mountain Power, said that Vermont Law School is the first of four institutions expected to receive a $12,500 grant for solar projects this year. The others have not been selected.

The two grants for the VLS project — the other being $5,000 from the state’s clean energy fund — don’t pay for the entire project. To cover the difference, the school will use a portion of its Green Revolving Fund, which was created in October and funded by an anonymous $200,000 donation and a $50,000 allocation from the VLS Board of Trustees . The charging station project is the first time the school has tapped the fund .

The idea behind Green Mountain Power’s grant, Schnure said, was to rid Vermont of a chicken and egg situation: People don’t buy electric cars because of a dearth of charging stations, and existing charging stations go unused because of a dearth of electric cars.

“We wanted to help jump-start the technology,” Schnure said. “We thought if we could install charging stations, we can get things rolling.”

According to an August 2011 report by the University of Vermont Transportation Research Center, there were a total of 568,468 registered vehicles in the Green Mountain State in 2010. Of those, 6,335 were hybrids. Just 77, however, were electric vehicles.

Still, those involved see the VLS charging station as a step in the right direction, even for hybrids that use electricity as a supplemental power.

“Once you’re driving 400 or 500 miles a week,” said Mihaly , “and you fill it up once with $27 worth of gas, you don’t want to go back.”

VLS isn’t the only institution planning a charging station. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has plans to install two single-outlet charging stations in the main parking garage and another two at its Heater Road facility, spokesman Rick Adams said.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.