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Switching Things Up for Winter Operations

December 19th, 2016 4 comments

With the impending colder weather, Metro is piloting some new track equipment to fight the snow and ice and maintain overground rail service.

Snow on tracks at Twinbrook Station

Snow on a track switch at Twinbrook Station

As a pilot project funded through Metro’s Sustainability Lab, we have replaced the switch heaters at Glenmont Yard with a new energy efficient heater that not only reduces energy consumption, but is also easier to install and maintain.

Switch heaters are vital to winter operations, providing radiant heat to track switches to prevent them from icing up and restricting train movements. Within the Metrorail system, each rail yard controls its heaters on an individual basis, and heaters are frequently in constant operation during the winter to allow tracks to remain operational.

Glenmont is Metro’s smallest yard and also has one of Metro’s more expensive electricity rates, so it was an ideal candidate to pilot the new heaters. Should testing prove successful this winter, we could adopt this new style of switch heater as standard across 58 miles of surface revenue track and 8 Metrorail yards.  This could save Metro over $110,000 annually in energy costs.

Each year the Sustainability Lab tests out new ideas such as these switch heaters for large-scale deployment, and we would love to have your help in finding ways to reduce resource consumption and improve service. Whatever the idea, we’d love to hear your thoughts and consider them.

So help us think big! Submit your ideas online or email them to planning@wmata.com.

Battery Storage Technology Demonstration Gets Federal Seal of Approval

March 15th, 2016 1 comment

After successfully testing a battery at West Falls Church, Metro is looking into more ways of re-capturing braking energy from trains. This could save operating costs and improve environmental sustainability, too.

FTA Visit to Battery Storage Pilot at West Falls Church

FTA Visit to WMATA Battery Storage Pilot at West Falls Church

Metro spends approximately $50 million each year on electricity to move our riders and railcars around the system. Last month, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a final report they commissioned Metro to conduct on technology to capture excess energy from regenerative braking through energy storage. The project was conducted by Metro and Kawasaki Heavy Rail Inc. at Metro’s West Falls Church substation as a “proof of concept” test of nickel-metal hydride battery technology as a storage media to capture otherwise wasted railcar braking energy from the direct current third rail.

Although the battery is headed back to Kawasaki, the demonstration was a success.  We learned how the technology could work with our infrastructure, and how the battery technology supports the asset management, safety and resource efficiency work of the FTA’s Office of Research, Innovation and Demonstration in the following areas:

  1. Energy savings of approximately $100,000-200,000 that can reduce transit agencies’ utility consumption and peak power demand charges.
  2. Voltage support to reduce line loss on the third-rail power distribution network. In particular, this offers significant benefits to system performance between traction power substations (fed from the local utility) providing a more efficient energy transfer to railcars.
  3. Emergency power support to move stationary railcars to safe access points in the event of a power outage from the local utility.
  4. Augmenting existing traction power substations to support revenue service during maintenance downtime, and/or enhancing power supply as part of traction power upgrades to support better service such as Metro’s 100% 8-car train expansion.

Metro is now analyzing of how battery technology could be scaled more widely throughout the system. As part of this process, Metro’s engineers are monitoring the results of similar energy storage/energy saving projects that have been undertaken by peer transit agencies such as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and London Underground.

As the cost of battery storage media such as nickel-metal hydride and similar lithium ion technology continues to fall, the economic benefits to rail transit will continue to grow. With the publication of this final report, Metro’s engineers’ commitment to strategic federal research provides a tangible example of how the Authority can support emerging technology as part of an investment in cost-effective new technology, and efficiently manage operating expenses.

Metro’s Men and Women in Blue are Going Green

January 14th, 2016 No comments

The new MTPD Station is certified green.

Harry Davis, Jr. Metro Transit Police District II Police Station

Harry Davis, Jr. Metro Transit Police District II Police Station

The Harry Davis, Jr. Metro Transit Police District II Police Station and Range Training Facility at Franconia-Springfield have both been officially awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

From inception the project targeted the environmental requirements for LEED certification. However, when construction began in 2013 the process to deliver the necessary credits and provide documented evidence of performance to USGBC began in earnest. Read more…

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Big Sustainability Gains at WMATA

August 27th, 2015 No comments

Metro has released its first sustainability report, with aggressive performance targets to guide the Authority and the region on the path to becoming the most sustainable in the nation.

Metro Sustainability Report 2015

Metro Sustainability Report 2015

As Metro’s Silver Line celebrated its first year of service in July it is timely to revisit the Metro’s first Sustainability Report. Released in April, the report outlines the sustainability benefits that the Silver Line and the Metro system as a whole bring to the region. The opening of the Silver Line has resulted in mode shift changes — as indicated by a 15% reduction in peak hour traffic at multiple intersections along Route 123 — combined with emerging transit-oriented development and walkability improvements around the Silver Line.  These  underscore the Authority’s progress towards the ridership, climate change and connected communities goals of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative – as documented in the Authority’s first annual report.

Tell us what you think of Metro’s sustainability efforts and we are always listening to new ideas for potential projects. Submit your ideas online or email them to planning@wmata.com.

 

Meet “Chip” – WMATA’s Lean, Green, Money-Saving Machine

August 19th, 2015 No comments

Metro’s new large tub grinder, called “Chip”, will pay for itself in 4 years.

Metro's New Tub Grinder "Chip"

Metro’s New Tub Grinder “Chip”

With summer now underway, Metro’s Grounds Maintenance and Custodial Services (GMAC) staff are out throughout the system addressing the management of vegetation and landscaping on Metro property. This year, GMAC has a new piece of equipment to both reduce operating costs and improve operational efficiency. “Chip”, the tub grinder funded by Metro’s Sustainability Lab, is expected to save Metro approximately $50,000 in waste disposal and landscaping costs annually.

Chip allows for compostable waste such as leaves, landscape debris, and wood debris (e.g. pallets, shipping crates, etc.) from Metro facilities to be ground up and converted into mulch. This mulch can then be diverted from the waste stream and instead reused in landscaping on Metro property. Chip is anticipated to divert approximately 4,000 cubic yards of compostable waste from the waste stream per year and is anticipated to recoup the initial investment on the equipment in three to four years.

This closed loop recycling program will not only reduce Metro expenditure but will also move Metro closer to its long term goal of zero waste that forms part of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative.

Metro Finds New Ways to Save the Bay

December 17th, 2014 No comments

Largo Stormwater Treatment Facility

Largo Stormwater Treatment Facility

Metro’s new Largo stormwater facility is making progress towards the Authority’s sustainability goals including reduced water and energy use, carbon emissions, and operating costs.

On November 13, Metro hosted a tour of its high-efficiency stormwater treatment facility at Largo. Highlighted during its design phase in a previous post on Metro’s Sustainability Agenda. The facility is now fully functional – with a green roof and solar panels that create enough energy to run the plant round the clock. “With a truly innovative design, this facility provides a green and cost effective model for organizations in the region as they make investments in similar facilities” according to Metro’s sustainability manager, Rachel Healy. The open house provided an opportunity for interested regional stakeholders to tour all of the facilities uniquely practical design in operation. Representatives from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Maryland Department of the Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, and Prince George’s County Council were in attendance.

Designed to ensure Metro meets stricter new discharge permit requirements that form part of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, the facility pumps an estimated 27,000 gallons of water per day from Metrorail tunnels near the Largo Town Center Station. The new state of the art facility houses a unique combination of features designed to reduce energy consumption and continue Metro’s commitment to invest in sustainability and reduce operating costs.

Instead of using more traditional heavy duty water pumps that have a high energy consumption and operating cost, the new Largo facility features a combination of gravity-fed treatment tanks and a high-efficiency mixing system that uses bubbles of compressed air to “circulate” the water. On the roof, solar panels supply extra electricity back to grid during the day and the building only draws grid power at night or during extended periods of low sunlight.  Metro will prevent an estimated 3 tons of C02 emissions per year through solar energy generation alone. This is the equivalent of half the emissions from an average homes electric use over the same period.

The Largo treatment facility showcases the dedication of Metro’s engineers and design staff in developing what is truly a cutting edge facility to meet State requirements and deliver ongoing operating savings for the Authority. Check out Metro’s video of the project and let us know what you think.

Water Savings on Tap at Metro as part of Sustainability Lab

August 21st, 2014 No comments

New sustainable water treatment systems used to cool underground Metrorail Stations are projected to save Metro millions of gallons of water and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

This month, Metro completed one of its first Sustainability Lab pilot projects – the installation of state-of-the-art water treatment systems at seven (7) chiller plants on the Metrorail system. The project will result in an estimated 400,000 gallons of water savings per location annually.

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Metro’s Station Cooling and Water Tower System

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Setting the Targets – Metro’s Sustainability Initiative

August 6th, 2014 2 comments

Metro’s sustainability targets both support the region’s sustainable growth and green the Authority’s operations.

Metro's Sustainability Targets

Metro’s Sustainability Targets

The DC metropolitan region is predicted to continue to experience rapid growth through 2025. Over this period, Metro is seeking to expand capacity through Metro 2025 investments as part of Metro’s Strategic Plan Momentum.  As a companion to Momentum, Metro’s Sustainability Initiative is both a commitment to “greening” operations inside and out and a plan to implement and mainstream that commitment. To coincide with this year’s Earth Day, the Authority launched Metro’s Sustainability Initiative, and with it, a set of ambitious but achievable performance targets.

Metro’s sustainability targets position the Authority to both support the region’s sustainable growth and to green the Authority’s operations. To highlight the dual role of Metro’s sustainability program, both regional and Authority focused performance targets have been set, as described below:

Regional Performance Targets:

  • Increase ridership 25 percent by 2025 and increase transit’s “mode share” or the portion of commute trips;
  • Connect Communities by ensuring that more of the region’s growth is served by transit; and
  • Increase the net greenhouse gas the region avoids through transit use (greenhouse gas displacement) by 10 percent by 2025.

Internal Performance Targets:

  • Reduce energy use per vehicle mile 15 percent by 2025, and cut in half greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle mile during the same period;
  • Reduce potable water use per vehicle mile 20 percent by 2025;
  • Source 30% of the electricity Metro uses from renewables by 2025;
  • Achieve 100% on-site stormwater management for stations and facilities (no target date); and
  • Achieve a 100% waste diversion rate/zero waste (no target date).

These performance targets allow Metro to track and manage its support of the regions sustainability goals and the Authority’s resource consumption – a measure of operational efficiency (per vehicle mile) – as well as enabling Metro to report annually on progress towards those aims.

This post forms part of a series featuring content from Metro’s Sustainability Agenda, part of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative.

Metro Riders Fight Climate Change 1.2 Million Times Every Day

June 26th, 2014 No comments

Metro provides the transit network around which a compact, low-carbon region can be framed. Without Metro available, the region would release an additional 400,000 metric tons of CO2e per year – equivalent to the carbon consumed annually by a land area approximately the same size as Fairfax County. By advocating for transit-oriented development as the region grows, Metro can continue to increase the net greenhouse gas (GHG) benefit or GHG displacement it provides to the region in three ways.

GHG Benefits of Metro

GHG Benefits of Metro

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Energy Efficient Station Chiller Upgrades

May 15th, 2014 2 comments

Chiller Plant at Navy Yard-Ballpark

Chiller Plant at Navy Yard-Ballpark

Each year as warmer weather approaches, Metro shifts priority from snow and ice removal to the cooling of Metrorail stations. In May, chiller plants throughout the Authority are started up, feeding chilled water to air conditioning equipment located in the stations. Though the design of the Metrorail system makes true air conditioning impossible, a reduction of station air temperatures is intended to provide some comfort while waiting for your train.

Some stations share chillers, such as Court House and Clarendon on the Orange Line, while other larger stations have two chillers, such as L’Enfant Plaza. Typical system sizes are around 350 tons. This is not a measure of the systems weight; instead chiller performance is defined in terms of tons of cooling, where one ton of cooling is equal to the amount of heat absorbed by one ton of ice melting in one day.

As part of Metro’s sustainability efforts, upgrades to chiller plant equipment consists of replacing old systems that have reached or exceeded their anticipated life with more modern, energy-efficient units. The new chillers feature oil-free operation, variable-speed magnetic-bearing compressors, and variable-frequency drives.

Two such chiller plant replacements were installed last year serving U Street and Navy Yard-Ballpark stations. With their smaller footprint, lower vibration, and operating sound levels, the units are proving not only more cost efficient but are also providing an overall improvement to operations. The result of the modernization is savings estimated at $15,000 annually per plant in energy costs alone. Additionally, when coupled with related upgrades to electronic controls and water treatment systems being piloted, the savings are expected to be increased in terms of reductions in both operating cost and water consumption. In 2014, chiller upgrades are proposed for Forest Glen, Wheaton, Crystal City, and Potomac Ave stations.

To reduce operating costs and improve efficiency, Metro’s facilities and fleet are actively striving to become more energy efficient. As part of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative, the Authority has set a target of a 15% reduction in authority-wide energy use per vehicle mile by 2025.

This post forms part of a series featuring content from Metro’s Sustainability Agenda, part of Metro’s Sustainability Initiative.