What's New: Project Updates

MWRTA Installs Solar to Cut Costs, Cover Fleet, and ‘Be Green’
Category: Project Updates
MWRTA Installs Solar to Cut Costs, Cover Fleet, and ‘Be Green’ image

In November 2018, the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) installed a 228 kW solar energy canopy in the parking lot of its transportation hub in Framingham, MA.  The solar canopy covers the MWRTA’s fleet of buses that provide public transportation for 32 communities throughout the I-495/MetroWest corridor.

Gerry Hartwell, Facilities Director of the MWRTA, wanted to have the solar energy system installed at the Framingham facility to compliment the site’s energy efficiency projects. “At the MWRTA, we are always looking for new green initiatives to go along with other energy projects we have already incorporated in our facility and vehicles,” says Hartwell. Over the last few years, the MWRTA has followed the sustainability plans developed by the MA Department of Transportation called GreenDOT. The GreenDOT has motivated the MWRTA to make environmentally friendly decisions, including a retrofit of the facility with energy efficient HVAC and electrical equipment, installing a water reclamation system, replacing all lighting fixtures with LED bulbs, and pursuing a solar project.

By installing the solar canopy, the MWRTA expects to cut operating costs through electricity savings and by reducing the amount of money spent on snow cleanup during the winter months. “I am waiting for first electric bill to see how much money we save on electricity,” says Hartwell. “We are eager to see how the canopy itself provides snow coverage for buses. The MWRTA will save on manpower of clearing, salting, and moving buses during the snow season.”

The solar installation at the MWRTA falls in line with the MA DOER’s recently published Comprehensive Energy Plan, which outlines policy recommendations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and “achieving a clean, affordable, reliable energy future for the Commonwealth” (CEP, ii). The Plan tackles the electricity, transportation and heating sectors of the energy industry. The electricity sector seems to in the midst of a clean energy transition, but the transportation sector will require significant change in upcoming years. Transportation is being called “the elephant in the room” because it still accounts for 44 percent of all emissions in Massachusetts. Agencies like the MWRTA are at the nexus of the electricity and transportation sectors. Since the MWRTA solar canopy is equipped with two electric vehicle charging stations, perhaps the next ‘green’ step for the MWRTA will be to transition to an EV fleet.

Dagle Electrical Construction Corp. (DEC), a local electrical contractor based in Wilmington, MA, was awarded the project by the MWRTA and its consultant, Tetra Tech. DEC subcontracted the electrical, mechanical and interconnection design and engineering work to Zapotec. Moving forward, Zapotec will continue to monitor the system’s energy production and provide operations and maintenance services. Zapotec’s engineers have enjoyed working closely with DEC’s Senior Project Manager, Tony Akoury, on this successful solar canopy installation.

The solar canopy is expected to produce 282,600 kWh of electricity each year. The carport racking holds 493 (470 W) SunPower solar panels and three (60 kW) Delta inverters.

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