Pioneering solar powered EV charging hub launched at ATU Letterkenny

A new state-of-the-art electric vehicle charging hub has been unveiled at the ATU Letterkenny campus carpark. The innovative hub, one of the first of its kind across third level campuses in Ireland, integrates three clean energy technologies including 10kW solar photovoltaic electricity generation, a 10kWh battery storage system and 3 EV charge points.

The pilot, part funded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, project SMARTrenew, is aimed at showcasing renewable energy in the community as well as boosting Ireland’s lagging performance in the transition to transport electrification.

Leader of project SMARTrenew and Academic Director of the WiSAR Lab at ATU Donegal, Dr Nick Timmons, said that such recharging facilities will be crucial in making the transition to EV ownership a viable alternative for many communities.

“The Government’s 2021 Climate Action Plan has set an ambitious target of almost one million EVs on Irish roads by 2030 and the transport sector is the single largest source of energy related emissions in Ireland, representing around 20% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.”

“One in five cars sold so far in Ireland this year was electric. Although this represents an increase of 13% from last year, the rollout of public charge points has been much slower and could hinder future EV growth.”

“Furthermore, data from the 2022 Census identified the availability of recharging infrastructure as a key influencing factor in the purchase of EVs among the general public and the scaleup of such facilities will be critical in realising Ireland’s zero emission vehicle adoption targets.”

Dr Timmons outlined the benefits in combining multiple energy innovations into the cutting-edge charge point solution, which was completed in partnership with Wicklow based SME, Randridge Technologies.

“By merging grid energy, solar power and battery storage the system stores and utilises the cleanest, lowest cost energy therefore reducing demand on peak hours grid energy without compromising on charging speed.”

“This installation, completed in partnership with Randridge, is a great example of how the greater adoption of slow charge points can turn underutilised spaces into renewable energy generating assets while also accelerating the transition to electric vehicles.”

“The system ensures that EVs can achieve a level of charge that covers day to day driving needs and does it in the most carbon efficient way, utilising dwell times of several hours, when cars are parked. This approach fits with the advice from car manufacturers that slow charging is optimal when maintaining EV battery health over time.”

“In addition, the battery storage captures excess energy which can then be used to power the campus car park lights over the coming months.”

Estates Manager at ATU Donegal, Mary Daly, noted that the new charging infrastructure will complement and build upon the existing green technologies adopted across the campus building in recent times.

“With a growing staff, student and visitor base each year, we are seeing an ever-increasing demand for EV charging infrastructure across our campuses.”

“The roll out of this new hub reflects our ongoing commitment to reducing environmental impacts across ATU Donegal and is one of several recent measures undertaken to reduce energy consumption across the campus. We also have several major retrofit projects underway across our buildings and a new biomass heat centre will soon provide renewable heat to our main Letterkenny campus building.”

“Increasing the use of electric vehicles by the members of our community who drive to campus forms part of our overall sustainability plans and these renewable on-campus charging stations can prove a powerful incentive for those considering transitioning to an electric vehicle.”

“The energy transition poses significant opportunities for the public sector to spearhead Ireland’s journey to carbon neutrality and we are proud to play our part at ATU Donegal.”

Check out the new ATU Donegal EV charging hub in operation