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Fuel up for free at College of the Atlantic

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Solar-powered electric charging station opens to the public

BAR HARBOR - Fuel up for free at College of the Atlantic! The small college on Maine's Mount Desert Island has opened a solar-powered electric charging station to any vehicle needing a recharge. Like many efforts on the COA campus, this was student-driven, linking the college to a funding group and the Maine community extending as far as the Darling's Nissan dealership in Bangor. The COA facility is at the north end of campus, and is open year-round between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

'Nissan has been making great strides in the area of sustainable technology in the past few years,' said Geoff Johnson, general sales manager at Darling's Nissan. 'Because of this, we are especially excited to be a part of this project, and we are looking forward to seeing what effects we can have in our communities through this partnership with COA.'

The public station at COA completes a solar-electric circuit on the island for COA. Anyone wishing to travel between campus and the college's two farms without emitting carbon a 24-mile roundtrip can catch a ride on E-Van, COA's electric farm shuttle.

'This station heralds a new COA effort to incrementally reduce our emissions while educating students in renewable technology,' said COA President Darron Collins. 'We believe we can best serve our students and the planet by teaching students to advocate for and shift to low-carbon technology.'

The solar-electric project was driven by Alex Pine, now a third-year student. "The first step in electric vehicle adoption is the implementation of a charging network,' he said. 'With this station, COA is taking the lead in making the island ready for electric vehicles."

Pine, who drives a biodiesel car, found the rebuilt Nissan electric van at a price the college could afford, convinced Collins that the college should purchase it and then contacted Darling's Nissan for a charging dock to complete the solar charging station.

Charmed by the possibilities of an emission-free farm circuit, Darling's of Bangor which began selling the first all-electric cars in Maine less than a year ago decided to donate not one, but two Level 2 chargers to the college. This device can charge any plug-in vehicle currently on the market, including the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt or Tesla Model S. One was installed at the college's Beech Hill Farm in Mt. Desert, the other on campus.

The station, meanwhile, emerged from a class of students who researched, sited, and installed a solar array on a campus building. To further encourage more local solar energy, Pine and fourth-year student Lisa Bjerke joined the college's business incubator, the Sustainable Enterprise Hatchery, receiving college credit while serving as consultants to MDI Clean Energy Partners, L3C, a local business formed to educate the public about solar energy and increase private funding for such systems. Bjerke project managed the panel installation, for which COA has a lease-to-own arrangement.

Impressed with the efforts of Pine and COA to reduce fossil fuel transportation at the college, electric car enthusiast Chip Chandler of Monmouth donated a Solectria Force to the college COA. The Solectria had belonged to the late Jay Harris of Northeast Harbor. Says his wife Lawrie Harris, 'My husband was a forward-thinking environmentalist. He bought this car 20 years ago. He would be very pleased to know it was going to the students at COA.' Earlier, a class built a SUNN-V, a solar electric car through a kit provided by the Seal Cove Auto Museum.

For more information about the charging station, open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or COA's continued solar-electric efforts, contact the college at (207) 288-5015.

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