The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News
A $ 4.5 million solar power project at the Vineyard Transit Authority officially went live on Friday, with a ribbon cut to celebrate the latest milestone in the VTA’s four-year journey to a fully electric fleet .
Transport company administrator Angie Gompert praised the clean energy benefits of an electric fleet. – Jeanna Shepard / VTA
Among a series of speakers at the festive event, veteran VTA pilot Andre Bonnell made the crowd laugh as he described the agency’s conversion from diesel to electric as moving from the transit era “Fred Flintstone- vintage to George Jetson ”.
The VTA now has 12 fully electric buses on the island and four more are expected to be delivered in June, according to agency spokesperson Colin Ouderkirk.
The project unveiled on the agency’s A Street Friday at the Edgartown facility adds solar canopy charging and an energy storage system, which officials have hailed as a game changer for the VTA.
“We have now created a fully integrated, clean, resilient and flexible transit system, the first of its kind, that will significantly reduce emissions on the island (and) save the VTA thousands of dollars in operation. , maintenance and fuel. the costs, ”said Alice Butler of Oak Bluffs, chair of the VTA advisory board, in a welcoming address.
The storage system will have the added benefit of providing back-up power during natural disasters, Ms. Butler continued.
Half of the funding for the project came from a public-private partnership between VTA and energy management specialist Enel X, and the other half from the Federal Transit Administration, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass DOT) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Mr. ”Ouderkirk told the Gazette.
Enel X North America executive Jim Pietras told Friday’s event that in partnership with his company, VTA would sell power back to the grid generating around $ 1 million over the life of the project. .
VTA administrator Angie Gompert said the current electric fleet has already reduced the agency’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than three million pounds and saved more than $ 24,000 in energy costs. since the first electric buses started to travel the roads of the island in 2018.
“A fully electric fleet of buses, vans and service vehicles will ensure greater reliability of service, lower maintenance and fuel costs, and create greater resilience in the event of a power failure. And we will power the buses with locally produced solar energy, ”Ms. Gompert told the crowd.
Longtime driver Andre Bonnell regaled the crowd with humorous remarks. – Jeanna Shepard / VTA
Martha’s Vineyard Commission senior planner Bill Veno also spoke on Friday, reminding listeners of the importance of transit on the island and the growing demand for the service.
During the decade 2007-2017, ATV ridership increased by 55%, including an increase in year-round travel as well as visitor use, Veno said. “It is very important to honor the VTA for its determination to do its best to provide transit options to those who need them.”
State officials at Friday’s event also praised the solar energy production and storage project.
“Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority is a role model for its peers,” said Meredith Slesinger, Rail and Transit Administrator for MassDOT.
Galen Nelson, of the Mass Clean Energy Center, said, “This project will provide important lessons and data to inform other regional transit authorities electrifying their systems.”
The VTA is also developing induction charging stations along the island’s bus lines, the first being planned for Church Street in Edgartown.
VTA administrator Angie Gompert said the current range of electric buses was insufficient for the island’s needs, with larger capacity batteries still in development.
“We need our buses to be able to travel 200 to 300 miles a day,” Ms. Gompert said.
“The demand for service during the peak months of visitors and in winter, with heaters on board, forces the VTA to be able to recharge the buses. . . along the bus lines.