Public Transportation uses Renewable Energy

Public Transportation uses Renewable Energy

2MW Solar Roofs at LA Metro

2MW Solar Roofs at LA Metro

By John Addison (updated 10/26/11; original 9/29/09).

More Americans ride on public transit than any time in the past 50 years as more live in cities and most watch their transportation costs. Remarkably, transit operators are moving more people, yet reducing our dependency on oil and generating less carbon emissions. Increased use of solar, other renewables, vehicle electrification, and low-carbon fuels are all part of solution.

New Jersey Transit is preparing for a future where parked cars can be charged with sunlight while people use public transportation. New Jersey Transit is installing 402 kW solar canopies on the rooftops of two large parking garages at the Trenton Amtrak Transit center.

These parking structures are also equipped with charging stations for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Participating in the opening ceremony was the Mid-Atlantic Grid Interactive Cars (MAGIC) consortium, which includes the University of Delaware, Pepco Holdings, PJM Interconnect, Comverge, AC Propulsion, and the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, created to further develop, test, and demonstrate vehicle-to-grid technology.

A few years ago, Los Angeles Metro invested $5 million to install 2MW of solar power as part of a three-year plan to install solar panels on every Metro Bus and Rail facility within its Los Angeles County service area. For example, the solar panels installed on Metro Bus Division 18’s maintenance building rooftop and shading parking structures consist of about 1,600 solar panels that generate 417 kilowatts of electricity, enough power pay for itself in 10 to 11 years.

Now LA Metro will receive $4,466,000 to make its rail system more energy efficient.  Red Line Westlake Rail Wayside Energy Storage System:  Install wayside energy storage substation (WESS) at Westlake passenger station is at-grade level on the high-speed heavy rail subway Red Line. The nearby traction power substation will be switched off when the WESS is operating.  The WESS flywheel technology captures regenerative braking energy when trains slow or stop and transfer back to same train or another train when it starts or accelerates, reducing energy demand and peak power requirements.

This month, the federal administration announced $100 million in Economic Recovery Act funding for 43 transit agencies that are pursuing cutting-edge renewable energy and efficiency technologies to help reduce global warming, lessen America’s dependence on oil, and create green jobs. The 43 winning proposals were submitted by transit agencies from across the country as part of a nationwide competition for $100 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds. Selection criteria included a project’s ability to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and also to provide a return on the investment.  The Federal Transit Administration reviewed more than $2 billion in applications for these funds.

AC Transit in Oakland, California, is awarded $6,400,000 to increase photovoltaic capacity to 600kW.

VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, Texas, was awarded $5,000,000 to replace conventional diesel transit buses with 35-ft composite body electric transit buses. The project includes quick-charging stations at this terminal layover in route to recharge bus batteries. Grid sourced electrical energy used to recharge the bus batteries will be augmented with solar energy collected with panels procured and installed under this project.

The nation is becoming less dependent on oil as record numbers escape solo driving in gridlock and increasingly use public transit. Electrification of light-rail and buses coupled with renewable energy makes this transportation greener.

Public Transit Renewable Energy ERA Awards

California:  City of Santa Clarita, $4,620,000.  Photovoltaic Modules on Transit Maintenance Facility:  Add photovoltaic (PV) modules to the Transit Maintenance Facility (TMF) to generate electricity to offset the electric power consumed at the TMF site. The PV modules will be placed on top of canopies that will generate electricity while providing shade for full-size inter-city and commuter buses.

California:  North County Transit District (North San Diego, headquarters in Oceanside), $2,000,000.  PV Solar Implementation at facilities:  Install PV solar in a variety of facilities.

Colorado:  Denver Regional Transportation District (Aurora, headquarters in Denver), $770,000.  Heating upgrades at East Metro bus maintenance facility:  To improve the heating system at its East Metro bus maintenance facility located in Aurora, CO.  This project will replace the three existing boilers with three new 15-psi, 20-ppm NOx boilers with Advanced Hawk Integrated Control Systems.  The advanced control system will operate the boilers based on load demand as opposed to outside temperature.

Connecticut:  Connecticut Department of Transportation (statewide) $7,000,000.  Stationary Fuel Cells and Hybrid Transit Buses Incremental Costs:  The purchase of diesel-electric hybrid transit buses and stationary fuel cells for use in the statewide bus system in Connecticut. This grant would allow ConnDOT to upgrade the upcoming purchases of buses and would fund the incremental cost of a hybrid bus compared to a conventional bus.  It would also fund stationary fuel cells to provide primary and emergency back-up power for the bus maintenance and storage facilities.

Delaware:  Delaware Transit Corporation (statewide), $1,500,000.  Solar Panel Installations at DTC facilities:  Retrofits Delaware Transit Corporation facilities with solar panels, which will generate cost savings through fossil fuel energy reductions.

Georgia:  Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, $10,800,000.  Shade structures with integrated, grid tied photovoltaic cells will be erected on a bus storage lot, generating renewable electricity while reducing heat islands.  This will be the largest PV installation in Georgia.

Illinois:  Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago), $1,500,000.  North Park Electrification – Electric Power Delivery System for Outdoor Bus Parking:  Construct electrified stalls that will deliver electrical power for up to 80 vehicles and provide services such as heating and air-conditioning to vehicles that would otherwise be left idling during overnight cleaning and prior to morning pullout.

Illinois:  Rock Island Metro (Rock Island), $600,000.  Solar Thermal System:  A solar thermal system on the building roof will provide hot water for the operations building and the maintenance building.  This is a solar thermal project not based on PV-based solar.

Illinois:  Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District – CUMTD (Champaign-Urbana), $450,000.   Facility upgrade with Geothermal Heat Pump System:  CUMTD will replace the existing conventional HVAC system with an efficient geothermal HVAC system.

Indiana:  Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation (Lafayette), $2,180,000.  GLPTC will reduce its electrical energy usage by installing wind power at its facility for use by its garage and maintenance facilities.

Massachusetts:  Lowell Regional Transit Authority (Lowell), $1,500,000.  Hale Street Solar Photovoltaic system:  The installation of a photovoltaic panel array on the roof of the Hale Street garage facility owned by the LRTA. The facility is used by the LRTA to store, fuel, maintain, and repair transportation vehicles (buses, vans, tow trucks etc.) as well as administrative and dispatch services. The facility is a 70,000 square foot building located in an industrial zone in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts:  Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Boston), $2,500,000.  Renewable Wind Energy:  MBTA will design and construct wind energy generation turbines in eastern Massachusetts (from among Kingston, Newburyport, and Bridgewater).

Minnesota:  Productive Alternatives/Transit Alternatives (Fergus Falls), $845,000.  Energy Reduction Consolidated Projects:  A variety of building energy-efficiency upgrades, hybrid vehicle upgrades, wind generator power systems, and the equipment needed to convert cooking oil to a blend with vehicle fuel to operate some of their buses.

Oregon:  Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (Portland), Pennsylvania:  Red Rose Transit Authority – RRTA (Lancaster), $2,450,000 is awarded for energy efficiency and geothermal for heating and air conditioning. A green roof on the new office addition, and two waste oil burners to heat the vehicle storage building using waste oil generated by RRTA from the vehicle fleet.

Washington:  Link Transit (Chelan-Wenatchee), $2,925,000.  Battery Powered Zero Emission Circulator Buses:  Innovative Quick Opportunity Charge, Lithium-Ion “Titanate” Battery Powered Community Bus program. This project replaces five diesel powered buses operating on high frequency circulator routes and will also create a “quick charge” automated opportunity charge station with two charging podiums at Link Transit’s Intermodal Transportation Center. An additional manual charging station would be installed at Operations Base.

Washington:  Clark County Public Transportation Benefit Area (Vancouver), $1,500,000.  Facility Improvement Project:  Improve various systems and install solar panels at several Clark County facilities.  System improvements include high performance fluorescent lighting, LED exit signs, retrofitting existing pole lights; and installing occupancy sensors for private offices, conference rooms and bathrooms.  HVAC upgrades include DDC control system covering all buildings, expanded control system with advanced control strategies. Solar PV system installations range from 5kW to 20kW.

Volt is Real; Global Warming is Not says Lutz

Volt is Real; Global Warming is Not says Lutz

By Greg Dalton (8/20/09). General Motors has been in the headlines just about every day lately, with mostly positive news for a change. Last week, to mark 30 days since it emerged from bankruptcy as the “New GM,” Vice Chairman Bob Lutz took the stage at the company’s design center near Detroit to talk up the prospects for the slimmed down automaker. The image was much like the one above, with Lutz standing in front of a Chevy Volt.

Lutz told the audience of auto enthusiasts he welcomed the auto industry oversight panel, saying “finally we have someone to talk to” who understands the industry, adding he hoped it continues after GM pays back the $50 billion taxpayer bailout.

When it came to questions, I raised my hand and asked him if he still believes global warming is a croc. He said, “I hoped that question wouldn’t come up,” and then launched into a 3 minute explanation of why he doesn’t believe the global consensus of scientists embodied in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But, he said, those views were his personal opinion and don’t reflect company policy or the products it decides to build.

Lutz, who is credited with igniting the SUV craze by championing the original Ford Explorer while he worked at that crosstown rival, is a legend in the car business and has tremendous sway in side the company. When he finished answering questions a GM press person came scrambling over to say his views are the subject of debate within the company and there are internal controls to make sure he doesn’t steer the company astray.

That may be but it is still strange to have a global warming denier as the front man for an automaker rising from the ashes and trying to remake itself as a company relevant in the era of climate change. A former Marine, Lutz speaks his mind and no one in the company seems able or willing to try to reign him in.

Next the group was taken to tour the Volt practice assembly line, where auto workers are learning how to assemble the Volt, which is due to go on sale in the fall of 2010.

gm-chevy-voltIt was convincing evidence that, contrary to what some skeptics say, GM really will build these electric cars even though it will lose money on each unit initially, as Toyota did with its groundbreaking Prius. The Volt will sell for around $40,000 less a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Some eighty percent of Americans drive less than 40 miles a day and for those people Lutz says “The biggest problem you’ll have is figuring out what to do with the extra gas in your tank.” That serial hybrid technology definitely is a leapfrog over the Prius, which is constantly switching back and forth between battery and gasoline power. Stil, GM and all US automakers are clearly playing catchup to Japanese car companies when it comes to hybrids and battery technology.

On a trip to the GM Heritage Center I viewed evidence that it didn’t have to be this way. Inside the building the size of a basketball arena there are dozens of sleek and shiny cars from GM’s heyday as the pinnacle of mass manufacturing. Over in one corner is an Electrovair II from 1966. That’s right, an electric car with a lead acid battery. And next to it is an Electrovan fuel cell vehicle from 1966. Those propulsion systems are still “experimental” at GM today.

If GM, and other automakers, had kept working on those technologies the past forty years they almost certainly wouldn’t be in the predicament they are in today. Former CEO Rick Wagoner, who visited Climate One in May 2008, later said killing the Electric Car was the worst decision he ever made.

So far, it looks like GM has learned its lesson and is going full tilt on the Volt. The proof will be how much marketing money it puts behind the car and whether it ramps up production from the 10,000 units (some insiders say 25,000) it plans to build the first year. That’s a rounding error in the 8 million cars GM sold worldwide in 2008.

But its a start and, as GM executives are quick to say, it is up to consumers to buy them.

The Plug-in Energy Diet

The Plug-in Energy Diet

Smart Charging Can Save

Smart Charging Can Save

By Tom Bartley (9/21/09).

It’s not as simple as it first appears to know how much money it’ll take to feed a new plug-in. A modern efficient electric cars with braking regeneration will consume less than 300Wh/mile. The new all electric Nissan Leaf is claiming 100 mile range with a 24kWh battery. Taking into account the battery losses, that’s excellent performance at less than 240Wh/mile. In terms of miles-per-gallon (mpg), as calculated by the GM Volt people, the Nissan Leaf achieves infinite mpg because it doesn’t use one drop of gasoline.

But really, you say, how do I compare out of pocket costs and real energy consumption? There are other perspectives, but have faith and follow along for an analysis to impress your friends.

The heat energy of gasoline is 36.6kWh/gallon, but the efficiency of a gasoline engine reduces this to about 10kWh/gallon in terms of the mechanical energy coming out of the engine. For a reasonable non plug-in high fuel economy car of 30 mpg that’s 30 miles per 10kWh or 366Wh/mile, also pretty good performance. In terms of energy efficiency the power company does a bit better in delivering the kWh energy than does the gasoline engine of my car. The picture is even better when energy security and greenhouse gas reductions are considered.

Note: I’m describing my around town commuter needs here, not any long distance trips. Batteries and energy storage are still a long way from coming close to the energy density of liquid fuel. I’ll discuss range anxiety and battery life in a future post.

Now watch closely; this is the part that matters. How much of my spendable cash is going for fuel to move me and my car down the street?

For a non plug-in at $3.00/gallon and 30mpg, I’m spending 10¢/mile.

For a plug-in at 13¢/kWh base rate charging and 0.24kWh/mile, I’m spending 3.12¢/mile.

The plug-in wins hands down and the margin gets even wider if I happen to live in an area with cheaper electricity. For a frequently used national average number of about 8¢/kWh, I’m only spending 1.92¢/mile.

Before you plug-in fans start clapping and cheering, did you notice the slight of hand? Here is more of the story. What is “base rate charging”?

For most of the 138 million electric energy consumers in the country the electric utility company reads the meter once a month and sends out a bill. Everyone pays the same price, the base rate, for the first kWh after the meter reading.
However, if a lot of electricity is used during the month, such as for air conditioning in the summer or heating in the winter, the price of the last kWh before the meter reading could be 3 or 4 times higher than the first kWh. This is called tiered rate tariffs and is analogous to the graduated income tax rate. The more electricity used the more charged per kWh.

The cost to the utility of generating power varies during the day as extra assets are brought on line to meet the demand. To cover the extra cost the utility companies use the monthly tiered rate pricing structure as approved by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in each state. The monthly tiered rate pricing doesn’t match up well with the daily cost variations.

Charging my plug-in vehicle would accelerate the higher rate tiered rate tariff and by the end of the month, using the numbers from above, I could be paying 6¢ to 13¢/mile for my plug-in.

The solution is Time-Of-Use (TOU) pricing. Smart meters provide the technology for TOU pricing to match the daily cost variations and the utilities love it!  8.3 million (6% of the meter population) of these meters are already installed nationwide and my utility, SDG&E, is planning for TOU pricing to start in 2011. In fact, a smart meter is integral to the new charging units being installed at home, work, and other locations. If I take delivery of a Nissan Leaf in 2010 I can probably get TOU pricing early.

So now I can have some real choices for how much I have to pay to fuel my electric car just like I have choices for which gas station to use to fill my tank. Ideally, I will do all my charging in the middle of the night for the lowest base rate. The computers in the car and the charging system can take care of that. Again the utilities love it because they don’t have to worry about adding assets to meet my demand.
I’m also thinking about doing a little arbitrage, using the battery in my car to store cheap energy and use it in my house when the grid energy is expensive. More about this in a future post. In the next post I’ll also discuss charging issues, maintenance, and intangibles.

You probably caught that I didn’t talk about the cost of replacing my battery.  I’ll cover that more in a future post, but here’s a hint – the battery will probably last at least 10 years for over 100,000 driving miles.  Present cost estimates are about $300/kWh or $7200 for the Nissan Leaf which adds 7.2¢/mile to the cost of operating my plug-in, but again, it “ain’t” that simple.  Stay tuned.

Cash is King in Renewable Energy Development

Cash is King in Renewable Energy Development

Tax-Exempt Bonds for Bioenergy from Waste

Tax-Exempt Bonds for Bioenergy from Waste

(By John Addison). It is a buyer’s market for those developing large wind, solar, bioenergy, biofuel, and other renewable energy projects. In 2009, land is less expensive , equipment cost less, deliveries are faster, and warranties longer. It is a buyer’s market if you have cash, yet it continues to be a difficult time to secure debt financing. This message was consistent from the majority attending the FRA Renewable Energy Finance and Investment Summit this week. I chaired the renewable fuels track and had a chance to talk with a number of developers and financers of renewable energy and fuels.

Demand for renewable energy is at a record high as U.S. utilities in about 30 states struggle to meet RPS (renewable Portfolio Standards). These utilities want to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) for 5 to 20 years of wind power, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, and other renewable production. In the future, to meet targets these utilities may need to directly develop, own, and operate these RE plants. Many would need PUC (public utility commission) approval to make this part of their business model.

RE has been a historic opportunity for developers who would take projects through 3 to five years of analysis, regulatory approvals, securing equity and debt financing, buying equipment, program management, and operating the plant. Now, few investors and lenders have the appetite for risk, as projects such as ethanol plants have gone bankrupt.
Credit worthiness of developers, utilities and end users are scrutinized. For example, major public real estate owners of buildings, hotels, and shopping centers that want MW of solar cannot get the RE because their corporation or REIT has a sub-prime debt rating.

Risk is intensified as redundant regulation and NIMBY (not in my backyard) opposition can delay installation of high-voltage lines for 7 to 10 years from wind or solar farm to major cities that need more electricity. Even billionaire Boone Pickens was unwilling to tie-up money for that period of time.

New high-voltage lines can be done. Prairie Wind went from zero to a transmitting 345kV line in less than 3 years. It is now optimistic about completing a 110 mile 765kV transmission system in Kansas. Prairie Wind Transmission is a joint venture of Westar Energy and Electric Transmission America — a joint venture of American Electric Power and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. ITC Great Plains and Prairie Wind Transmission are authorized to build different segments of the Kansas V-Plan.

Although large-scale RE development in 2009 is beyond the financing capabilities of most entrepreneurs, it is an opportunity for major public companies with investment-grade bond ratings such as FPL Energy, GE Energy, Iberdrola Renovables, and EDF Energy Nouvelles. Wall Street analysts are forecasting record 2009 and 2010 earnings for Iberdrola and EDF.

Smaller wind and solar developers find that new developments are possible, though more difficult. Utilities are standardizing RFPs and making conditions more reasonable. Private equity money is available if investors can be convinced of high returns and low risk. David Perlman, Managing Director with investment banker Fieldstone Private Capital Group, reports that, “Liquidity is returning, but with fewer banks than before economic crisis, smaller lending commitments, shorter maturities, and club deals rather than syndications. Bankers might offer construction terms and an operating loan of no more than five years for developments that show little risk.

The ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) has helped and hurt. More federal bureaucracy and slower release of money is reported. New wind and solar deals are more likely to use ITC than PTC. The cash flow for an ITC is sooner and more predictable. For many projects, the new Treasury Department Grant is even more favorable than ITC. Tax-exempt bonds are another avenue for financing RE projects reported John M. May, Managing Director of investment banker Stern Brothers. He identifies bioenergy and biofuel from solid waste are good targets for tax-exempt bonds.

Wind and solar developments are difficult. Biofuel debt financing is next to impossible according to conference participants. Bankrupt corn ethanol plants are being sold for pennies on the dollar, with Valero’s purchase of VeraSun assets being a prime example. Clean Fleet Ethanol Report. Cellulosic plants and algal fuel pilots are moving forward for those who have received equity investments in the tens and hundreds of millions, and do not require bank financing, including Abengoa, Enerkem, Mascoma, Poet, Sapphire, and Synthetic Genomics to name a few.

The demand is growing for renewable energy and fuels. The rewards are significant for the patient investor who can moderate risk with a portfolio of RE projects at various stages of approval. In 2009, the year of the Great Recession, cash is king.

Ener1 Takes Stake in Electric Vehicle Maker Think Global

Ener1 Takes Stake in Electric Vehicle Maker Think Global

TH!NK City with EnerDel Lithium Batteries

TH!NK City with EnerDel Lithium Batteries


Ener1 (HEV) took the lead among a group of investors that plans to inject $47 million of equity funding into Think Global AS, the Norwegian electric cars producer. Ener1 effectively expands its existing 10 percent stake to a 31 percent stake in Think. Ener1 is the parent company of EnerDel, a leading manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion automotive battery systems and an existing supplier to Think.

Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer stated, “Ener1 and Think have collaborated for years on systems development, and today possess a unique ability to bring together category-leading technologies in a fully integrated platform, to suit a wide variety of vehicle applications.” Ener1 appears to be pursuing a business model similar to Bosch Automotive and Magna. Gassenheimer added, “As a key battery supplier and now partner in the production and marketing of electric drivetrain solutions for a range of next-generation vehicles, Ener1 looks forward to a strong future relationship with this industry leader.”

EnerDel and Think have also agreed to enter into a new long-term battery supply agreement as part of the transaction. EnerDel will receive certain exclusivity rights for the supply of lithium manganese titanate batteries for Think’s current and upcoming new vehicle models.

“This investment cements our partnership with one of the leading advanced battery manufacturers in the world,” said Think CEO Richard Canny. “In addition to ensuring supply of high-performance battery systems, the new deal will enable us to more fully capitalize on our advantage in the marketplace with the only ‘plug-and-play’ electric vehicle drive system with prismatic lithium-ion technology.”

Ener1 develops and manufactures compact, high performance lithium-ion batteries to power the next generation of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles. In addition to the automobile market, applications for Ener1 lithium-ion battery technology include the military, grid storage and other growing markets.

Ener1 also develops commercial fuel cell products through its EnerFuel subsidiary and nanotechnology-based materials and manufacturing processes for batteries and other applications through its NanoEner subsidiary.

Think is a pioneer in electric vehicles, and a leader in electric vehicle technology, developed and proven over 19 years. Think is also a leader in electric drive-system technology, and was the first to market a ‘plug and play’ mobility solution in the business-to-business sector.

The equity funding allows financially struggling Think to exit court protection and resume normal operations with the production of the ready-to-market TH!NK City.
Also participating in Think’s restructuring is Valmet Automotive, a provider of automotive engineering and manufacturing services of premium cars. In 40 years the company has produced over 1,100,000 high-quality vehicles in Finland. Valmet Automotive manufactures Porsche Boxster and Porsche Cayman for Porsche AG. The manufacturing of Fisker Karma hybrid vehicle starts in 2009. The company is a part of Metso.

Diversifying into system integration around a technology platform is an intelligent strategy for Ener 1 who faces tough competition from battery giants who have joint ventures and strategic relationships with major auto makers. Competition includes Panasonic, Hitachi, NEC, LG Chem, and Johnson Controls-Saft.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers