Wind-powered rail helps Calgary meet its clean-air goals

Posted on July 1, 2001 by Ron Collins, Calgary Transit

At press time, customers of Calgary Transit’s C-Train were to begin riding on the first wind-powered light rail system in North America. The transit agency’s endeavor to create a light rail system powered only by wind-generated electricity is the product of a partnership between Vision Quest Windelectric, a wind farm in southern Alberta, and Enmax, which supplies electricity to Calgary Transit. Under the innovative program, Vision Quest installed 12 additional turbines at its facility and is selling wind-generated power to Enmax. Calgary Transit’s entire 100-car C-Train fleet will be driven by wind power, resulting in no pollutants being released into the environment. Because of this, the project contributes significantly toward the city of Calgary’s corporate goal to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. “We are a leader in this area and proud of the fact that our customers can ride the C-Train knowing we have taken this significant step toward reducing the environmental impact of urban transportation,” said John Hubbell, general manager of Calgary Transit. Award-winning idea Last spring, Calgary Transit won a Federation of Canadian Municipalities CH2M HILL Sustainable Community Award for its leadership in renewable energy with its “Ride the Wind” project. An estimated 26,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly generated by the burning of coal or natural gas for the production of electricity, will be precluded from entering the atmosphere by the use of wind-generated electricity for the C-Train. This is equivalent to eliminating 7.5 million vehicle trips in Calgary annually. Other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx) will also be reduced. Budget stability, too The program will provide greater budget stability for Calgary Transit by establishing a 10-year price structure for C-Train traction power, which will significantly reduce uncertainty that has resulted from the recent volatility in the price of electricity. Operational costs of using wind-powered generation may increase at a nominal premium of 0.5% per passenger. However, when compared to the environmental benefits, this is a small price to pay. Travel via C-Train provides an environmentally friendly alternative to private vehicles. A three-car C-train carries the passenger equivalent of 545 private vehicles. Since its inception May 25, 1981, 555 million riders have used Calgary’s light rail system. The C-Train carries about 187,700 riders every workday. Statistics show 42% of Calgary residents who work downtown use Calgary Transit.

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