February 23, 2012

TriMet solar project to produce clean energy

Portland, Ore.-based TriMet's solar project at the South Terminus of the MAX Green and Yellow lines at SW Jackson Street is now operational. Located near Portland State University, it's the largest solar project in downtown Portland and a first for the MAX light rail system. Performance of the system can be monitored live online at http://live.deckmonitoring.com/?id=tri_met_south_terminus.

The project will produce approximately 65,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy annually, offsetting energy used by site lighting and two light rail electrical system buildings. The excess energy produced will add clean energy to the Portland General Electric (PGE) grid. The total energy produced is equivalent to reducing 29 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Estimated first year energy savings for TriMet is $4,880, based on 2011 rates. Over the 25-plus-year life of the solar system, TriMet will earn more than 25 times its initial investment as the value of electricity generated continues to be credited against its power bill. This credit will increase as electricity rates rise over time.

"Since MAX trains are all-electric vehicles, we want the electricity they run on to be as clean and local as possible," said Dan Blocher, executive director of TriMet's Capital Projects Division. "This solar system leads in the right direction for the future of TriMet and the region."

Approval was granted in March, 2008 for "two pre-fabricated buildings to be enclosed beneath a steel-frame structure of photovoltaic panels and metal-mesh screen." The solar panels and other sustainable features in the project helped secure approval of the project application. TriMet used $1.2 million of federal stimulus funds to pay for the supporting structure.

REC Solar performed the installation.

A "DECK" energy monitoring system will allow online access to live data from the installation. PSU students, researchers and others are expected to harvest the data for educational and analytical purposes.

Installation cost totaled $366,000, with $263,151 in grants and credit offset, making the net installation cost about $102,849. TriMet's share is $4,936 and recouped in a little more than a year.

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