WG&E starts up vehicle charging stations

WESTFIELD – The Gas & Electric Department is in the process of securing Conservation Commission approval of a project to install an electric car charging station in front of the Big Y Supermarket on East Main Street.
The Westfield Gas & Electric Department had begun construction work to install a commercial charging station when it was discovered that the area in which the station is being installed is subject to review by the Conservation Commission because the location is in a flood plain.
Work was stopped and the WG&E submitted a request to the Conservation Commission for a determination of applicability (RDA) to install the 4.32 cubic-foot electric charging station in the flood plain area.
Conservation Coordinator Karen Leigh said the commission will collect data on the project to determine the extent of flood water displacement created in the flood plain by the project. If the flood water displacement is significant, the commission could require a more extensive review under a notice of intent (NOI) process.
Projects which have large volumes of flood water displacement are required to provide compensatory storage in the flood plain.
“It’s a small project, four cubic feet is basically a wheel barrel load,” Leigh said, following the commission’s Sept. 22 session at which is issues was discussed. Leigh said the Commission will probably not determine that a more extensive NOI review is required at its Oct. 13 meeting and issue an order of conditions for the project.
WG&E Operations Manager Aaron Bean said this morning that the municipal utility is still proceeding with plans to install electric car charging stations in various location in the city.
The East Main Street Big Y system will be one charger with two charging ports and that a second charging unit is being proposed for the East Silver Street Big Y Supermarket.
“We are working with the Big Y to install a charging station at the East Silver Street store” Bean said. “The charging stations are one of the Big Y marketing tools to draw customers and they are not charging us for the power. The WG&E will maintain the charging units.”
“The Big Y has a larger plan to have electric-vehicle charging stations at all of their stores,” Aaron said. “Customers will use the Chargepoint Network to have access to charging ports.”
Bean said that the Chargepoint Network has 24,000 charging station across the country. Charging station location are available through the Chargepoint Network website and through Plugshare.com.
The WG&E had slated a ribbon cutting ceremony for the East Main Street Big Y charging station for Sept. 19, but that ceremony will be rescheduled after the station is operational.
Bean said the charger is connected to the electrical panel inside the Big Y store and a circuit breaker would trip if the unit is compromised by water.
“The charging station has the same electrical draw as an electric dryer circuit,” Bean said.
Bean said there are three levels of charging stations based upon voltage used by the electric vehicle. Level 1 is for vehicles designed to charge on 110 volts, Level 2 is a 240 volt charging system and Level 3 is a 480 volt system.
Vehicles designed for Level 1 and 2 have a charging unit that draws electricity and recharges the batteries, similar to a traditional battery charger. The Level 3 system, called a fast charge station, directly recharges the vehicle batteries.
“The Office of Environmental Resources has awarded us a grant to install a Level 3 charger, which provides a much quicker charging time, somewhere in the general area of the Turnpike Exchange 3, but we have no received notice from the OER to proceed,” Bean said. “We have several preliminary locations for installation of that charging unit.”

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