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December 10, 2018 1:30 PM, EST

Solar Power Installation by Trillium Prepares the Way for EV Charging

First Installation is at Love's Travel Stop in California
Bill Cashmareck Bill Cashmareck, managing director of Trillium, at the 2018 ACT Expo. (Trillium)

Trillium announced it has completed its first solar installation at the Love’s Travel Stop in Santa Nella, Calif., that is expected to offset 53% of the travel stop’s energy consumption and support an electric vehicle charging station there.

It is the second Love’s location to run off solar power. Its first was installed in Las Vegas in 2016.

The new ground-mounted photovoltaic system at Santa Nella will generate more than 300,000 kilowatt hours annually, which is 30 times the average household usage. Other eventual sites could offset 80% of energy consumption based on available sunlight. On-site solar projects for additional Love’s Travel Stop locations are planned in California and Illinois next year.

Trillium is a unit of Love’s and provides alternative fuels and related systems. Bill Cashmareck, managing director of Trillium, said there will be a future announcement on “EV charging stations that we either built for or, in partnership with, a motor carrier.” He declined to identify potential motor carrier customers.

“This is new territory for everyone. We are under confidentiality agreements with a few customers right now at test stages,” he said.

Truck makers have launched initial versions of medium- and heavy-duty trucks and forecast commercialization to begin within a few years.

“We are in the solar space and excited about the things to come there. We are serious about our aspirations in that business,” he said.

Trillium’s alternative fuels, besides EV, include compressed natural gas and hydrogen fueling, he said.

“We want to make sure, because we know the way the world is going, that in addition to providing technologies that lower the customers’ GHG emissions, we want to take care of that energy supply as well. The energy supply being the carbon-emissions reduction,” Cashmareck said. “There are a few ways to handle that for EV. You can also supply an EV station with electricity that is generated from renewable natural gas. We are in that business.”

Meanwhile, the cost for the solar panel and its componentry has decreased substantially over the past couple of years.

“For solar panels, the industry [cost] standard today is from $1.75 to $2.25 per watt. We find ourselves in a very competitive place for our solar builds,” he said.

Love's Travel Stop near Las Vegas

Trucks park at a Love's Travel Stop near Las Vegas. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Solar prices are falling faster than any other energy source — even other renewables, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. It noted solar prices have dropped 88% over the last nine years, including a 13% drop just in the past year, according to new data on the cost of energy from the financial firm Lazard.

“There are American solar panels and for some of the projects we or others might take on, you have to comply with Buy American standards,” Cashmareck said. “We are going to use a variety of solar panels. And we will source those from wherever we deem most competitive.”

In the meantime, where to locate a solar installation at a travel center is a key consideration.

Trillium’s solar footprint is limited at truck stops.

“We know truck parking comes at a premium," Cashmareck said. "We always want to be mindful to not take up truck parking spots. So we are always trying to make sure we’re staying out of the areas of operation of that truck stop. A lot of time, the energy-replacement factor has to do with the size of the space available for the solar installation.”