Montgomery County’s Ride On transit system in Silver Spring, MD will soon be the first in the D.C. area to use microgrid technology to power electric buses. While most transit agencies with electric buses are powered by the traditional electricity grid, this will be powered from solar panels.
This solar microgrid is part of the county’s climate goals, which include converting its publicly owned vehicles to zero-emission by the year 2035. The county is expecting to add 10 electric buses to its existing fleet of more than 370 gas-powered buses in the next few months, and expects to buy 100 more by the end of 2023.
“This is the kind of thing we have to do to meet our climate goals,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said. “The grid is clean, so the cleaner energy we use as a source, the more likely we are to be successful in reducing our total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the goal.”
The solar panels will be installed at the Brookville Bus Depot and will eventually be capable of charging up to 70 buses. The county intends to install microgrid facilities in more of its bus depots as the fleet expands. According to Calvin Jones, division chief for Montgomery County Fleet Management Services, the microgrid can store energy from solar panels, natural gas power generation, and the electric utility. It was designed to withstand natural disasters and disruptions to the electric grid.
The project was funded through a public-private partnership with AlphaStruxure, a joint venture between the Carlyle Group, an asset management company, and Schneider Electric. AlphaStruxure fronted the capital to build the microgrid infrastructure, and the county will pay it back in monthly installments over 25 years. The buses were purchased using Federal Transit Administration grants.