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Transit Systems Find Creative Ways to Generate Revenue

Posted on January 8, 2013 by Nicole Schlosser

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SEPTA’s trains turn electricity into braking energy that gets stored in a battery. A revenue stream is created by selling some extra energy to a microgrid market. The battery may also cut SEPTA’s electric bills by $190,000 per year.
SEPTA’s trains turn electricity into braking energy that gets stored in a battery. A revenue stream is created by selling some extra energy to a microgrid market. The battery may also cut SEPTA’s electric bills by $190,000 per year.
Reusing energy
Meanwhile, SEPTA tapped another revenue stream, turning energy from brake regeneration into dollars.

Stemming from a partnership with Philadelphia-based smart grid company Viridity Energy, the agency is saving and making money from wayside energy storage. SEPTA’s trains turn electricity into braking energy that gets stored. The brake creates electricity, which goes into a battery that is installed at a substation, Andrew Gillespie, chief power engineer, SEPTA, explains.

Five years ago, when SEPTA initially looked into capturing regenerated energy using a battery wayside storage device, the financial return on investment showed that it washed, because the cost to build the system would equal the cost savings over the life of the system, Gillespie recalls. More recently, Viridity approached SEPTA and proposed a dual-use of the battery by participating in the Microgrid market to double the economic value. Viridity also won a $900,000 grant through the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority, which made the option more feasible.

The system is installed on the Market-Frankford line and has been running for about seven months.

A revenue stream is created by utilizing the battery to participate in a microgrid market — integrated energy systems made up of distributed energy resources and multiple electrical loads operating as a single grid.

The microgrid manager, PJM, manages all the major power suppliers in the Northeast, which produce energy at various rates, balancing the supply and demand. PJM pays SEPTA to charge and discharge the battery at the rate they need to help balance the load. Over the last decade, as new sources of energy come online — particularly renewables, such as wind and solar — the ability to regulate energy became more difficult.

“You can’t make the wind blow harder when you need more power,” Gillespie says. “Frequency regulation balances the load and supply.”
The battery is projected to decrease the agency’s electric bills, promising a savings of about $190,000 per year. The savings generated from the regenerative braking will be used to help fund SEPTA’s sustainability initiatives.

“We’re doubling the benefit of the battery, financially, [with] this multi-purpose use,” Gillespie says.

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