The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, popularly known as BART, is one of the largest public transportation operations in the world. Connecting the East Bay with cities on the San Francisco peninsula, it carries more than 130 million passengers annually and uses about 400,000 megawatt-hours of electricity each year.
In April, BART announced its Wholesale Electricity Portfolio Policy, in which it pledged to obtain at 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources and 90% of its energy needs from low and zero carbon sources by 2025. The target includes 100% energy from zero carbon sources by 2035 and 100% from renewables sources by 2045.
This past week, BART announced two new power purchase agreements that will help it achieve those goals sooner than planned. One is with NextEra Energy Resources, which will build a new 62 MW wind energy facility. The other is with Recurrent Energy, which will build a 45 megawatt solar power plant. Both projects will be located in Kern County and are expected to be online by January 1, 2021.
“BART received a robust set of competitive bids in response to the Request for Proposals that was issued in May 2017,” says Holly Gordon, director of sustainability for BART. “The price per kilowatt hour that BART will pay when the projects begin operating in 2021 is lower than what BART currently pays for energy. That low price will be locked in for 20 years, resulting in significant cost savings for BART over the long term.”
The PPAs are made possible by legislation passed by the California legislature in 2015. Called Senate Bill 502, it was written by then San Francisco State Senator Mark Leno and allows BART to directly procure renewable energy sources. “These agreements will ensure the District gets a majority of its electricity supply from clean, renewable, and competitively priced sources through at least 2040,” says BART board president Rebecca Saltzman. “Wind and solar energy will take center stage in BART’s long term electricity supply.”
Such forward thinking on environmental issues is typical of California, which leads the nation in switching to renewable energy. Announcing the agreements now will protect both projects from any cuts to renewable energy incentives that may be included in the Republicans’ so-called tax reform act (tax heist) that seeks to impoverish all Americans for the benefit of a few wealthy patrons.