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Rider's Almanac Blog

Bus Go Green Light Rail Minneapolis

Solar power lighting Metro Transit buildings, shelters

| Thursday, September 5, 2013 9:00:00 AM

Metro Transit is seeing the light – and putting it to good use.

Three separate solar energy projects are in the works as part of an effort to cut in half the amount of energy purchased for Metro Transit facilities by 2020.

In October, construction is set to begin on a 40-kilowatt rooftop array at Metro Transit’s Light Rail Support Facility, located at Hiawatha Avenue and East 24th Street in Minneapolis. Expected to be complete by the end of the year, the solar panels will feed directly to the facility powering the building and augmenting energy purchased from the grid.

Next year, a 40-kilowatt solar array will be built on the new Park & Ride at Highway 610 and Noble Parkway. When complete, the 1,000-space Park & Ride will feature LED lighting, a geothermal heating and cooling system and charging stations for electric vehicles.

> Highway 610 & Noble Parkway Live Construction Cam

In addition to those larger projects, a series of solar panels are slated to be installed at 15 bus shelters in north Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park in early 2014. The solar panels will power motion-sensing lights at the shelters, located on Xerxes Avenue, Brooklyn Boulevard, Fremont Avenue, Lyndale Avenue and Olson Memorial Highway.

In 2012, Metro Transit installed similar arrays at 10 Minneapolis bus shelters, largely along Franklin Avenue. The shelter systems include a battery pack that stores the energy during the day and can supply up to 30 hours of light when fully-charged.

Though not as powerful as the larger arrays, the solar-powered shelters are a high-visibility sign of Metro Transit’s commitment to renewable energy and efficiency.

“It’s definitely noticeable,” said James Harwood, a facilities engineer with Metro Transit. “People see that it’s (the shelter) powered by solar and I think that says something about the agency.”

The Franklin Avenue installations were part of the Energy Innovation Corridor – a federally-funded effort aimed at energy improvements near the METRO Green Line. Rebates from Xcel Energy were also used.

The solar systems going in at shelters this fall, each costing about $4,500, are being funded through a federal grant focused on transit improvements in the northwest metro. Federal funding is also being used to pay for the solar arrays at the Park & Ride at Highway 610 and Noble Parkway and the Rail Support Facility.

Taken together, the installations will not only help Metro Transit reduce the amount of purchased energy but also help meet a goal of installing 500 kWh of renewable energy generation by the end of 2020.

Future solar additions could come in the form of public-private partnership at some of Metro Transit's large support facilities. The Metropolitan Council is using a similar model at the Blue Lake wastewater treatment plant in Shakopee.

“I think as we develop all of our new projects we’re going to be looking at sustainability,” said Robert Rimstad, another Metro Transit engineer who has been involved with the solar project. “We’re always looking for new ideas.”

> Go Greener with Metro Transit