As part of its Go Greener program, Minneapolis’ Metro Transit powered its Hiawatha light rail trains free of emissions with wind energy on Earth Day.
The 10 wind-powered railcars traveled during the a.m. peak period and served 19 stations, providing about 31,000 rides.
The transit system bought approximately 71,000 kilowatt hours of wind-generated electricity from energy supplier Xcel Energy’s Windsource program to power the rail line for one day.
Windsource portions some of its wind power into blocks, sells them to consumers and businesses, and reinvests the revenue into new wind energy, John Siqveland, public relations manager, Metro Transit, explained.
In 2008, Siqveland spotted the opportunity to introduce riders to the idea that wind, as he put it, “doesn’t just drive sailboats.”
“You can subscribe to the Windsource program at any time,” Siqveland said. “It just struck me that if local companies, residents and universities can use this program, why can’t we do it and talk about the flexibility of fuel sources to power electricity and say something on Earth Day about the flexibility of light rail? Rail can move 31,000 people a day, essentially with power generated from turbines.”
Xcel recently surpassed its one billionth kilowatt hour through the Windsource program.
Metro Transit and Xcel officials also commemorated Earth Day in the morning at a customer outreach and appreciation event at Xcel’s headquarters, which are located just around the corner from Nicollet Mall light rail station in downtown Minneapolis, Metro Transit’s busiest light rail station.
Xcel executives and Metro Transit GM Brian Lamb spoke with riders and downtown residents and workers about the “Go Greener” and Windsource programs. Attendees were able to sign up for Windsource program at the event. A few hundred people attended the customer appreciation event, Siqveland said.
Meanwhile, Peace Coffee, one of the local businesses offsetting all of its operations with Windsource, gave out free coffee to Metro Transit customers and downtown residents and workers. [PAGEBREAK]
The agency had held similar events for Earth Day each of the previous two years. It had also partnered with Windsource to host the Living Green Expo when it was produced in the Twin Cities. GM Lamb has also written editorials about the topic for the local paper.
Using wind power for the light rail line is only one component of Metro Transit’s “Go Greener” initiative. The agency launched the program six years ago in an effort to conserve energy and reduce emissions. Since then, Metro Transit added about 132 hybrid-electric buses to its fleet. The buses are the only type of vehicle the agency operates out of the Nicollet Mall station, which added another green aspect to the event setting.
The transit system also saved energy by specifying energy-efficient materials when buying buses and reducing idling time. Making capital investments at its six bus facilities also made them more energy efficient. Measures included adding high-speed garage doors, more efficient lighting, and automated heating and cooling equipment.
In the first three quarters of 2012, Metro Transit conserved an estimated 600,000 gallons of fuel, saving $2.1 million compared to 2007 operations. Compared to 2008, utility costs have been cut in half, saving more than $2 million in 2012.
These changes were sparked in 2008, when Metro Transit voluntarily underwent an energy audit from Xcel of its five bus garages and overhaul facility.
Another green tradition of Metro Transit’s is its Annual Commuter Challenge program, which asks riders to pledge to replace at least one drive-alone trip and instead travel by bus, train, bicycle, walking, vanpool or to telecommute.
Metro Transit, as well as The Metropolitan Council, the organization that provides the transit service, were recognized with a Continuous Improvement Award by Gov. Mark Dayton last year for these and other energy- and cost-saving initiatives.