September 3, 2008

BART Goes Solar at Orinda Station

By Denis Cuff

The Orinda BART station is going solar.

A solar energy company has landed a BART contract to install carports with photovoltaic panels on top to provide renewable power to run the lights, fare gates, ticket machines at the station -- or about everything there except for the trains, which have a separate power source.

The carports will be placed in the Orinda station parking lot, where they will shade some 25 or more parked cars.

"It allows BART to profit from soaking up the sun while our riders benefit from the shade and savings," said Gail Murray, the BART board president from Walnut Creek.

The transit board on Thursday gave its top managers authority to award a contract for up to $3.8 million to SunEdison LLC in Beltsville, Md., to install solar panels at the Orinda station and on the roofs of BART's Hayward and Richmond maintenance shops.

The company also will install energy-saving lighting at the two maintenance shops, plus at the Concord BART station.

The contract will save BART an estimated $3.4 million over 20 years, with most of the savings coming from the new energy- efficient lighting rather than the switch to solar power, BART administrators said in a report to the board.

Some of the financing for the project comes from solar power federal tax incentives, which are scheduled to expire by the end of this year.

BART cannot qualify for the tax incentives because it's a public agency. But because SunEdison will build and operate the solar equipment and sell the power to BART, the private company can qualify for the incentives, according to the report.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said a transit system study identified Orinda as the best station for solar power because the station's orientation toward sunlight is ideal for generating solar power.

"We would like to put solar in other stations, but this was the only scenario where we could make money," Johnson said.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267 or [email protected]


Originally published by Denis Cuff, Contra Costa Times.

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