web1_WEB101515SolarStation-2

First solar charging station for electric vehicles opens in West Point

Visitor center first in state to receive EV charger

By James Morton

jmorton@civitasmedia.com

Tim Echols, Georgia public service commissioner, charges the first vehicle with the electric vehicle solar charger at the West Point visitor information center on Wednesday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/web1_WEB101515SolarStation-1.jpgTim Echols, Georgia public service commissioner, charges the first vehicle with the electric vehicle solar charger at the West Point visitor information center on Wednesday. James Morton | Daily News
One of the solar panels on a new charge station for electric vehicles collects solar energy at the Georgia Visitor Information Center on Interstate 85 in West Point.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/web1_WEB101515SolarStation-2.jpgOne of the solar panels on a new charge station for electric vehicles collects solar energy at the Georgia Visitor Information Center on Interstate 85 in West Point. James Morton | Daily News

WEST POINT — Georgia’s first solar charging station for electric vehicles was unveiled Wednesday afternoon at the Georgia Visitor Information Center on Interstate 85 near the state line.

Kia Motors and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation partnered to create the charging station.

“We really put the first stake in the ground when we partnered with Georgia Conservancy, Georgia Tech College of Architecture, and Perkins and Will,” said Harriet Langford, Ray C. Anderson Foundation trustee. “We wanted to just make it the smartest, safest, cleanest highway. … They gave us an unbelievable blueprint, a finished product that can go out to the world and be a model for any highway that we have. And among some of the first people we met were our friends from Kia.”

Sam Wellborn, Georgia Department of Transportation District 3 board member, said the charging station was an accomplishment for the state.

“This is a red-letter day, a day to remember, not just for DOT but for all of us in Georgia,” Wellborn said. “This is the first tangible thing we have done among many, many things we are going to do in this corridor in the years ahead. And I really think this is going to be a model for our state and for our nation to see what can happen when you have people like Harriet (Langford) and the whole Ray Anderson family working on making this corridor special.”

Wellborn also said that there are plans to spend $30 million to upgrade all eight of the state’s welcome centers and the state’s 17 visitor centers.

“I am so excited to hear about the change of attitude regarding all of these rest stops and welcome centers,” said Tim Echols, Georgia public service commissioner. “Putting a high quality charger here … is really the first of its kind, that I know of, anywhere at a rest stop and a welcome center. That’s so exciting.”

Randy Jackson, senior vice president of human resources and administration for Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, talked about partnering with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation to try and set an example for others to follow.

“This idea was discussed and it was a wonderful idea.” Jackson said. “Most things do start with a good idea, and you end up with a good result. And today is a great result. … I’m glad I’m able to stand here today on behalf of Kia and all of our team members and be a partner and try and set an example for others to follow in this event.”

West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson talked about working together to make great things happen.

“That’s one of the hallmarks of this west Georgia region is that we have incredible teamwork and incredible commitment to making our community better and our state better,” Ferguson said. “I don’t want to talk about what’s happened so far, what I want to talk about is the future and how exciting this project can be, not only for Troup County but also for the state of Georgia in being a world leader in sustainable highway development.”

He added that the project is not “just about the product that gets put on the ground,” but taking innovative ideas to boost the economy, create jobs and promote sustainability in the community.

“It is really, really exciting that we have an opportunity to talk about things or talk about ideas and technologies that we don’t even know yet exist,” Ferguson said. “And to be able to have those things develop right here in our community is a special opportunity.”

According to a fact sheet provided by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, the solar charger is a level three “quick charge” station. It is capable of providing an 80 percent battery charge in less than 45 minutes.

Hannah Solar LLC installed the station. It is the first of its kind to be installed at a visitor’s information center in the Southeast.

James Morton is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154. Follow him on Twitter at @jmorton_LDN.