Friday, July 22, 2011

The MBTA Could Soon Be Going Green

The terminal is located in Red 
For those of you who ride any line out of North Station, the BET or the Boston Engine Terminal is a very familiar site. The terminal, which is home to the MBTA's commuter rail maintenance facility, was completed in 1998 at a cost of $170 Million. It boasts a total of 380,000 square feet, 80,000 of which is administrative and employee facilities for the MBCR and an enormous eight-acre roof which is shaped, humorously, like a T.

Currently the MBTA is the largest consumer of electricity in Massachusetts, spending about $21.6 million  in fiscal year 2010. Currently they pay about eight cents per kilowatt when the market rate is only five cents per kilowatt. To save money, the T has been heavily researching way to incorporate renewable energy in and around the system.

They have been approached by a solar power company (which has yet to be identified) about the possibility of installing solar photovoltaic arrays on the eight acre roof of the BET, the Readville Yard, and Billerica's Iron Horse Park. 

The T will officially put out a bid request for third-party solar instillation firms around Labor Day. 

The T was originally planning on building their own solar panels on top of the BET but they were unable to acquire USDOT TIGER funds for the project. Currently they are looking at a few business models for the project. They include leasing the rooftop of the BET for about 25 years at a time to a power company.They are also thinking about maybe engaging in a land lease while simultaneously purchasing the solar power to run the facility that houses the panels.

The MBTA is also in negotiations to pursue a new power contract for fiscal year 2012. Currently the T has a contract, which expires in December 2012, with Florida based NextEra Energy. The Company, which operates the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire, has been under scrutiny recently because many people feel that the plant is unsafe and out of date. 

With a new contract the T hopes to save the Commonwealth a total of $4.7 Million in fiscal 2012. They're hoping to come to an agreement with a new company to allow them to blend their current price with the market price to average around 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour. This would reduce their bulk energy cost to about $16.9 Million down from $21.6 Million. The T hopes to have bids starting to flow in by August.

Although the T is trying to become a green transportation authority it is going to take quite a bit of time and money to get them where they need to be. Hopefully in the next few years we will see solar panels and wind turbines showing up all over the system, but we will just have to wait and see.

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