The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which serves the greater Philadelphia area, including parts of New Jersey and Maryland, has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Lightsource BP, the renewable energy arm of BP. The agreement will provide SEPTA with 67,029 MWh electricity from two solar power plants in Franklin county — about 20% of the transportation agency’s annual electricity usage.
The two installations will use more than 120,000 solar panels spread over 320 acres of land leased from local landowners. The solar power facilities will be developed, owned, and operated by Lightsource BP and are expected to enter service before the end of 2021.
“This project is a win-win, creating good-paying jobs for Pennsylvanians while locking in low prices with a clean energy source for SEPTA,” said Board Chairman Pasquale Deon in a press release. “We’re excited to be a part of moving the Commonwealth’s energy industry forward.”
The solar electricity will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from SEPTA’s operations by 47,390 metric tons annually — equal to the emissions of 500 diesel-powered buses. “Transit is inherently sustainable, and supporting the development of local renewable energy is another way we can deepen our positive environmental impact,” said general manager, Leslie Richards. “The agreement will help us achieve our long-term and ambitious sustainability goals in this vital field, which will only become more important as we emerge from this crisis.”
Speaking with PV Magazine, SEPTA’s director of innovation Erik Johanson said the PPA will help the transportation agency meet its sustainability goals. The timing of the PPA was driven partly by recent reductions in the cost of solar power. The 20% target was chosen because it was large enough “that we could get a good proposal with good economies of scale, but small enough that we can continue to take advantage of the prospective cost decreases [for solar energy] as we go forward into the 2020s,” he said.
He said the PPA is also good for SEPTA’s bottom line. “What’s really exciting is that you’re starting to see a lot of these new forms of energy, like solar, start to be cost-competitive. And so we think that our sustainability program is actually a platform not just for environmental improvements, but for financial improvements.” SEPTA expects to save “several hundred thousand dollars a year” in energy costs he added.
Lower emissions, lower energy costs. No wonder renewable energy is so attractive to transportation agencies like SEPTA.