Electric buses get solar charge and battery back-up on Martha’s Vineyard

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Martha’s Vineyard is an 87 square mile island southwest of Falmouth on Cape Cod. You might never have been there, but you probably know because it’s there Jaws! was filmed in 1975. Like many islands, Martha’s Vineyard is very keen to limit its dependence on fossil fuels, which are more expensive than on the mainland due to the high cost of transportation. Islanders also tend to be more aware of the threat of sea level rise as the Earth warms.

The Vineyard Transportation Authority announced this week that it will add 4 more electric buses to its fleet in June, bringing the total to 16 to 50 percent of its fleet. But that’s not the big news. We all know that electric buses can lower emissions compared to their diesel cousins ​​and are less expensive to operate and maintain. What’s of note about the VTA electric bus program is that it will use electricity from solar panels to keep them charged. It has covered the roof of its Edgartown operations center with enough panels to provide 700 kW of electricity. As buses travel up to 300 miles per day and have to run their heaters continuously during the winter, wireless charging stations are being installed at several locations along their routes to increase autonomy while stopped to pick up and drop off passengers.

But even that’s not the end of the story. VTA also added a 1.5 MWh battery storage facility to absorb all that electricity and use it to power its 12 charging stations overnight. The system is the result of a collaboration between Arup, PXiSE and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. Half of the funding for the project came from a public-private partnership between VTA and Enel X. The other half came from the Federal Transit Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, according to the Vineyard Gazette.

Using the battery-powered storage component, the micro-grid can be decoupled from the power grid during outages and used to provide back-up power locally. Enel X will own the battery storage component and manage it on behalf of VTA in order to provide a reliable supply of electricity to VTA and generate income by selling some of that electricity back to the grid in the future. Enel X and VTA will share any revenue created, which could amount to up to $ 1 million over the term of the agreement. The cost of electricity to charge electric buses will be 30% lower than if the electricity were purchased from the local utility, according to a report by Canary Media.

“VTA proves that [fleet electrification] works, it’s less expensive to operate, and there are ways to mitigate risk and generate revenue streams that were historically unavailable, ”says David Funk, Senior Director of Business Development at Enel X.“ We have now created a one-of-a-kind solution. fully integrated, clean, resilient and flexible transit system that will significantly reduce emissions on the island (and) save the VTA thousands of dollars in operating, maintenance and refueling costs, ” says Alice Butler of Oak Bluffs, chair of the VTA Advisory Board.

Quiet, efficient buses that cost less to operate is great news. But the real news here is the reduction in carbon dioxide that these electric buses will make possible. The fully electric bus fleet, which averages about 1.4 million kilometers per year, will remove 36,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 10 years, according to Public transport magazine.

This only counts the direct emissions that diesel-powered buses would create during this period. Add the emissions avoided by not shipping diesel fuel to the island, delivering diesel fuel to the mainland terminal, and creating diesel fuel in the first place and the total carbon impact is huge. If you live on an island at a time when the waters around you are slowly rising, this may be the most important consideration of all.


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