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Metro Saves $185,000 in Electricity Costs with Largest Solar Power Installation of its Kind

Friday July 07, 2006

Renewable energy project in San Fernando Valley supplies up to 20 percent of two bus divisions’ energy needs.

Near the one-year anniversary of its installation, Metro today announced that its huge solar panel project at two bus divisions in the San Fernando Valley has so far saved the agency at least $185,000 in electricity costs.

The project, the largest solar power installation of its kind in the transit industry, produces a combined AC 425 kilowatts of clean, renewable electricity — enough electricity to provide up to 20 percent of each bus division’s total energy requirements.

Metro Bus divisions in Sun Valley and Chatsworth were outfitted with a total of 1,648 solar panels last May. The panels have enough generating capacity to power more than 100 homes a year for 25 years.

L.A. City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today hailed the project, saying “It is no small feat for an agency the size of Metro to marshal the will and the resources to implement a renewable energy project of this magnitude. Far beyond being an environmentally responsible project, these solar panels just make good business sense and are now helping lower agency operating costs at a time when they are most needed.”

“With air quality concerns, rising fuel prices, tight operating costs and budget deficits, renewable energy solutions like solar power generation are becoming both an economic imperative and a responsible way of doing business,” said Roger Snoble, Metro CEO.

At a total cost of $3.3 million, half the cost, or approximately $1.82 million, was provided through utility company rebates designed to assist companies in meeting some or all of their energy needs through installation of, among others, solar generation facilities.

Southern California Gas Company (The Gas Company) contributed $1.46 million through the California Public Utilities Commission’s Self-Generation Incentive Program. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power contributed an additional $357,000 through its Solar Incentive Program.

“This is one of many projects we’re involved in that promote renewable energy and help customers gain more control over the cost and reliability of their electricity,” said Rick Morrow, The Gas Company’s vice president of customer services—major markets. “We strive to provide both innovative and sustainable solutions to our customers’ energy needs.”

Metro will recoup its own $1.48 million investment within 7 to 10 years through reduced electricity costs. The system is designed to last 25 to 30 years.

“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is proud to have assisted in making this solar project a reality. It is another example of the Department’s solid commitment to renewable energy and our goal of reaching 20 percent renewable generation by 2010,” said General Manager Ron Deaton. “Since its inception in 2000, the LADWP’s Solar Program has invested over $80 million in solar energy and is just one of the ways the LADWP strives to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles.”

Metro is one of the first large agencies to demonstrate the feasibility of leveraging state incentives for solar power generation in California. In February 2006, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted The California Solar Initiative, a 10-year, $2.7 billion incentive program to spur photovoltaic and solar thermal projects.

While other transit agencies have designed solar installations for purpose-built facilities, Metro is the first to design a solar power generation project of this magnitude on existing rooftop space. SolSource Energy, a division of CleanFuel Connections, Inc. of Arcadia, Calif. designed and installed the solar panel system. SCHOTT Solar, Inc., of Rocklin, Calif., manufactured the solar modules and supplied the mounting system. The ASE 300 solar modules are the largest, most powerful photovoltaic modules available, designed specifically for commercial and municipal installations.

“Not only does this large photovoltaic installation demonstrate Metro’s commitment to the environment,” said Jim Cahill, of SolSource Energy, “it makes a lot of sense economically. The system will provide Metro with a hedge against rising energy prices and prove to be a wise investment for many years to come.”

Solar modules located on the roofs of Metro’s Maintenance and Transportation buildings at each bus division cover more than 43,000 square feet of rooftop area. The system uses multiple inverters to convert the DC power generated by the solar modules into AC power, which is then fed back into electric utility grid. A reverse meter deducts the amount of electricity generated by the panels from each division’s electric bill.

The emissions savings from avoided fossil-fuel generation is equivalent to removing more than 500,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 2,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide emissions per year. That is the equivalent to taking 100 cars off the road.

Based on the success of this solar project, Metro may elect to retrofit other transit properties with solar panels. Other possible applications could include solar panels on light rail station platforms, where the photovoltaics could generate power for video surveillance cameras, intercoms and other station equipment.

Metro’s solar power project is the agency’s latest effort to introduce clean, environmentally responsible energy sources for transit and transit-related operations in Los Angeles County. Also notable among these efforts are the agency’s ongoing phase-in of 2,100 compressed natural gas buses – the nation’s largest clean air bus fleet.

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