ST. GEORGE — Heading toward Port Clyde on Route 131, just about a mile past the Route 73 turn off, a big yellow house, circa 1811, sits on the left. Not visible from the road, however is the brand new Siemens VersiCharge Gen 2 30Amp Electric Vehicle Charger that Robert Skoglund, a.k.a. the humble Farmer, installed in his barn two weeks ago. The charging cord can go out the nearby window and charge any electric vehicle that happens to be down this far.
The house runs entirely on solar power from 30 PV panels that Skoglund purchased, 24 of which he and some young neighbors installed on a rack he built himself.
“I’d made smaller PV panels myself, but they could only be used with a battery system and were not compatible with the grid,” he said. “When I asked my friends at ReVision Energy for help, they installed six 230 Watt panels on my rack. I’ve added 24 more, eight at a time, as I got enough money from rhubarb sales to pay for them. Right now I pay about $135 to be hooked to the grid for a year and I’m very pleased with my system.”
Long known for his dry, self-deprecating wit as the radio personality and columnist ‘humble Farmer” (the ‘h” is lowercase...because it’s more humble that way) Skoglund runs a bed and breakfast at his home with his wife, Marsha. He purchased the electric vehicle charger to give people with electric vehicles one more reason to visit St. George. They get a free charge when they stay overnight at his B&B.
In the 10-plus years that Skoglund has been running his appliances with solar power, he has managed to use exactly as much as he has generated. But last month, for the first time, he didn’t run his electric heaters long enough and was startled to see that 87 KWH was erased from his account. Although they had enough electric heat to keep the house warm, Skoglund said he’ll be glad to see his surplus power put to good use by his friends who own electric cars.
“I might break even on the charger after four people with an electric car book a room,” he said. “Because we are on the cusp of a new technology, I’ll be pleased if it takes two years. But in 10 years when the electric car technology has improved I doubt if you’ll see anything else.”
Cars are a big interest for Skoglund and he’ll give you a tour of the property where a number of his old Model Ts are stored. One such Model T, a 1926 rusted relic sitting in the barn, has a good back story.
“In December of 1952, I was 16 and coming home from school, when I rolled that one over,” he said. “I didn’t have a tire; I was riding on the rim—you could do that in those days—and the pounding on the road shattered the wooden spokes and the car went over in the ditch and flipped. But, I landed on my feet and shut it off. Back then you didn’t have to report an accident if the damage was under $50 and the car was only worth $42. I played for a dance that night at Rockland high school and didn’t dare tell my mother I’d rolled over in my car until after the gig.”
There are a number of websites such as Charge Hub that list all of the places in the U.S. that hosts electric car charging stations
“People with electric cars want to know where they can get a charge when they come to Maine,” he said. “It’s still a new thing but it’s becoming more commonplace. It’s just a matter of time. I’m in the vanguard.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org