Editor’s note: Progressive Engineer magazine ran a feature article on Valley Metro’s Metro Light Rail system in the July/August 2010 issue. You can see it at www.progressiveengineer.com/features/lightRail.htm.
Valley Metro in Phoenix, AZ chose April 22, Earth Day, as the kickoff to begin powering the Valley Metro Rail Operations & Maintenance Center using solar power. The new solar plant, which consists of 2,800 solar voltaic panels spanning 1.15 acres, is mounted at ground-level and on parking lot shade canopies. It can generate 1.3 million Kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy savings annually, enough electricity to power 123 homes.
“From reducing greenhouse gases to improving fuel usage, we are involved in a variety of initiatives to protect and preserve our environment,” says Steve Banta, Valley Metro CEO. “Solar energy is a principal addition to our growing sustainability efforts.” Solar power adds to a menu of existing sustainable programs that Valley Metro practices each day, including a large fleet of alternatively fueled bus and trains.
Valley Metro received a Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas & Emissions Reduction (TIGGER) federal grant to help fund construction and installation of the solar photovoltaic system. Additional funding was received through the APS Schools and Government Incentive program. To date, the APS program has helped more than 32 government agencies, 300 schools and 70 school districts install solar energy.
Last week, Valley Metro received Bronze level status in the American Public Transportation Authority’s (APTA) Sustainability Commitment on the basis of making sustainability a part of the agency’s strategic objectives, developing an awareness program and establishing a sustainability inventory. The new solar facility is a vital part of the agency’s overall commitment to sustainability. Valley Metro is one of eight systems across the country to earn this distinction. “Valley Metro is being recognized for its strong organizational commitment to improving sustainability, for significant progress in water reduction efforts in an arid environment, and for its innovation that led to saving energy in air conditioning on buses,” says APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.
Valley Metro provides public transit options to residents of greater Phoenix and Maricopa County including the planning and operations of a regional bus system and the development and operations of light rail. The first 20 miles of light rail opened December 2008, and eight rail extensions are planned or are under construction that will create a 66-mile system by 2034. Valley Metro also offers alternative transportation programs for seniors and people with disabilities, commuter vanpools, online carpool matching, bus trip mapping, bicycle safety, and telework assistance.