Electric Buses Get Solar Charging & Battery Backup On Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard is an 87 square mile island southwest of Falmouth on Cape Cod. You may never have been there, but you probably know because it’s where Jaws is! was shot in 1975. Like many islands, Martha’s Vineyard is critical to limiting reliance on fossil fuels, which are more expensive than the mainland due to the high shipping costs. Islanders are also more aware of the risk of sea level rise as the earth warms up.

The Vineyard Transportation Authority announced this week that it will add 4 more electric buses to its fleet in June, for a total of 16 to 50% of their fleet. But that’s not the big news. We all know that compared to their diesel-powered cousins, electric buses can lower emissions and are more cost-effective to operate and maintain. What’s new about the VTA electric bus program is that it uses electricity from solar panels to keep them charged. It has covered the roof of its Edgartown operations center with enough panels to provide 700 kW of electricity. Because buses travel up to 300 miles a day and have to keep their heaters running continuously in winter, wireless charging stations are being installed in multiple locations along their routes to increase range while they are stopped to pick up and drop off passengers.

But that is not the end of the story either. VTA has also added a 1.5 MWh battery storage system to absorb all the electricity and to supply its 12 charging stations with power overnight. The system is the result of a collaboration between Arup, PXiSE and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. Half of the funding for the project came from a public-private partnership between VTA and Enel X. The other half came from the Federal Transit Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, according to the Vineyard Gazette.

Thanks to the battery storage component, the microgrid can be decoupled from the power grid in the event of a failure and used for the local emergency power supply. Enel X will own and manage the battery storage component on behalf of the VTA in order to provide a reliable power supply for VTA and generate income by selling some of this electricity back to the grid in the future. Enel X and VTA will share any revenue generated, which can total up to $ 1 million over the term of the agreement. According to a report by Canary Media, the cost of electricity to charge the electric buses is 30% lower than if the electricity was purchased from the local utility.

“VTA proves that [fleet electrification] works, it is cheaper to operate and there are ways to provide risk reduction and revenue streams that were not available in the past, “says David Funk, senior manager of business development at Enel X.” We have now created a unique one of its kind. A fully integrated one , clean, resilient and flexible public transportation system that dramatically reduces emissions on the island (and) saves the VTA thousands of dollars in operating, maintenance and fuel costs, ”said Alice Butler of Oak Bluffs, Chair of the VTA Advisory Board.

Quiet, efficient buses that cost less to run are wonderful news. The real news here, however, is the carbon reduction that these electric buses will make possible. According to Mass Transit Magazine, the all-electric bus fleet, which drives an average of 1.4 million miles per year, will save 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the next 10 years.

These are just the direct emissions that diesel-powered buses would cause during this time. Add the emissions avoided by not shipping diesel fuel to the island, not delivering diesel fuel to a terminal on the mainland, and not producing diesel fuel at all, and the overall carbon footprint is huge. If you live on an island at a time when the water is gradually rising around you, this may be the most important consideration of all.

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