Smart Grid Coming to Philadelphia Train Stations

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The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority announced last week the unveiling of what they are terming as a “ground-breaking recycled energy and optimization project.” The pilot project captures the braking energy of its trains on the Market-Frankford Line and integrates the captured energy into the regional electric grid.

Market-Frankford Line platform at 8th Street Station.

This is a unique step forward in the capture of kinetic energy. Many solutions have no feasible means to store the energy captured, for use later on or for reintegration into the grid. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) believes that its project is the first to combine the capture of regenerative braking to provide supply savings with energy storage that provides support to the electric grid through the frequency regulation market. The result clearly creates a recurring economic value.

“Through this pilot project, SEPTA will become even more energy efficient, which will help control operating costs—benefiting both customers and taxpayers. We’ve made our system cleaner, greener and more efficient in recent years – things like replacing traditional diesel buses with diesel-electric hybrids and installing energy-efficient lighting at stations, facilities and offices,” said Joe Casey, General Manager at SEPTA. “These measures are helping us control costs in tough economic conditions – and making us a better neighbor in the communities we serve.”

SEPTA launched the pilot project in partnership with Viridity Energy, a smart grid technology firm that specializes in electric market integration. Saft was selected to provide the design, manufacturing and commissioning of its Intensium Max20 P System, a battery energy storage system (ESS). Envitech Energy, a member of the ABB group, was selected to provide power controls, power conversion and system integration using its ENVISTORETM System. With these partner technologies and Viridity Energy’s VPower™ software optimization system, the train’s regenerative braking energy is being transformed into virtual power that will provide significant energy savings and new energy revenue to support SEPTA’s progressive sustainability goals.

Viridity Energy’s VPower™ optimizer enables the simultaneous process of regenerative capture, regulation performance, and energy market participation by selecting which market to participate in based upon market pricing, battery state of charge, and availability of regenerative energy from the trains.

“We are excited to be a part of this groundbreaking achievement,” said Audrey Zibelman, CEO and President of Viridity Energy. “In a smart grid world, two-way digital information exchange opens up new horizons. This project truly showcases the potential of that smart-grid world, particularly as it applies to the transportation industry. By harnessing the regenerative braking power of the trains and empowering SEPTA to become a virtual power generator that can provide valuable and environmentally responsible service to the electric grid, we can fulfill the promise of interconnected systems on the grid and behind the meter responding dynamically to reliability and economic signals to strengthen the grid.”



With luck, this pilot project will be viewed as successful by other rail authorities the world over, and quickly implemented in stations across the world. There have been countless projects and studies that display just how much kinetic energy the movement of humans from home to work creates, so the fact that we are finally starting to capture that energy for productive uses is heartening.

For more history on this story, check out our previous posts:

The Polish metro service in Warsaw and ABB are also working on a system to capture the braking energy of their trains and use it to power accelerating trains. Though, this project will not include infusion of the captured energy into the electric grid.

Source: The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Image Source: Michael Hicks

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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