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Proterra bus charging system
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Clean Transport

Proterra & Scale Bring Solar Electric Bus Charging System To Valley Transportation

Proterra and Scale Microgrid Solutions are building a solar powered charging system for electric buses.

The California Air Resources Board is requiring all public transit agencies to transition to 100% zero emission bus fleets by 2040. In preparation for meeting that mandate, Valley Transportation Authority in Santa Clara county — home to San Jose — is installing an innovative clean energy microgrid and EV fleet charging system in cooperation with Proterra and Scale Microgrid Solutions to charge its electric buses. The system is made possible by a grant from the California Energy Commission that was announced this week, according to Electric Cars Report.

During a typical day, the microgrid will allow VTA to produce low cost renewable energy and purchase off peak electricity from PG&E that is then stored in the battery storage system for consumption during peak price periods. The cost savings, combined with the lower maintenance costs of electric buses compared to diesel powered buses, will help VTA provide better service to its customers while keeping harmful carbon dioxide and fine particulates out of the skies over San Jose.

In the event of a power outage, electricity stored in the microgrid’s battery can provide back-up power at VTA’s Cerone bus yard to allow the agency to continue operating its electric buses, serving its customers, and providing emergency transportation as needed. Expected to come online in late 2023, the project showcases how clean energy paired with fleet-scale EV charging can enable the adoption of fully-electric vehicle fleets and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Proterra & Scale To The Rescue

“If the lights go out, transit agencies and fleet operators need to know that their electric vehicles will be there for the communities they serve,” says Chris Bailey, President of Proterra Powered & Energy. “We’re excited to bring local clean energy and EV fleet charging to help VTA power through outages to deliver essential transportation services as they transition to a zero-emission bus fleet.”

Tim Victor of Scale Microgrid Solutions adds, “California’s electric grid needs distributed energy resources in order to support fully electrifying its transportation sector. The system we are deploying for VTA will set the example of how distributed energy will alleviate many of the risks associated with the energy transition and provide cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable charging power.”

“This project combines several VTA goals. It shifts us toward greener sources of energy, saves VTA money that can be reallocated to other operating needs and provides the infrastructure to charge our next batch of zero-emission buses. Our riders will benefit from a newer, quieter fleet and we will decrease our contribution toward climate change and poor air quality,” said Adam Burger, senior transportation planner at VTA.

The key to the system is 1.5 megawatts (MW) of solar panels installed on rooftops and an overhead carport canopy at the VTA’s Cerone bus depot. The solar panels are paired with a battery storage system that can store 4 megawatt-hours of usable electricity and 1 MW of peak output power to provide backup electricity at the depot for up to 20 hours of emergency operations.

For extended outages, VTA has the option to easily connect a temporary generator to provide additional backup power for fleet operations. The agency will also install two Proterra 1.5 MW fleet chargers to power its 34 electric transit buses. The microgrid and charging infrastructure will be linked together by a package of switching gear and controls designed by Schneider Electric.

Proterra is actively involved with providing high power commercial charging solutions for electric bus fleets. “For large fleets of vehicles, where customers need to address the challenge of charging dozens or hundreds of vehicles in a single fleet yard,

Proterra’s new charging systems can be configured with up to 1.5 MW of power — enough to charge up to 20 vehicles simultaneously. The new Proterra 1.5 MW fleet scale charging system can also tie directly into higher voltage utility power lines (up to 35kV), which avoids the footprint and complication of costly switch gear, the company says.

Solar power and electric buses — a match made in heaven and the shape of things to come.

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