California Transportation Authority Proposes Bus Charging Microgrid 

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The Santa Clara, California, Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) plans to build a microgrid with charging infrastructure to upgrade and fuel its fleet of battery-powered electric buses with a potential $4.68 million in grant money from the California Energy Commission (CEC). 

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By Sundry Photography/Shutterstock.com

This Northern California project is part of the VTA’s effort to transform its fleet to 100% zero emissions by 2036 — before a state requirement takes effect for all public transit agencies to transition to 100% zero emissions by 2040. The VTA is an independent agency that serves Santa Clara County. It currently has a fleet of 441 buses, but only 10 are electric.

VTA formed a partnership with Scale Microgrid Solutions, Proterra and Schneider Electric to build a 1.5-MW solar energy system at its 10-acre Cerone Yard with a 1-MW/4-MWh stationary battery energy storage system. Scale Microgrid plans to build the solar and storage microgrid and act as project manager, said Tim Victor, Scale Microgrid’s business development manager, in a phone call on Sept. 21. 

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Proterra will provide two 1.5-MW fleet chargers with 34 charging dispensers and cables. Schneider Electric will supply the microgrid switchgear and controls. 

Gary Miskell, VTA’s chief innovation officer, said the agency already has 10 electric buses, which are charged through a connection to one of VTA’s buildings. Another 24 electric buses would be purchased to add to the electrical fleet and all would be charged by the new microgrid.

The solar panels would be installed on VTA’s several buildings plus a parking structure where overhead pantograph chargers are integrated into the solar canopy. Proterra would build where the switchgear, controls and chargers would be installed.

The solar system will not provide power to any of VTA’s buildings other than the parking structure because of a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) requirement, Miskell said. PG&E, VTA’s electric service provider, requires that its fleet-ready, fast-track process be used to connect to the grid and be limited to one electric meter serving the microgrid. 

A decision by the CEC Board of Commissioners on the $4.68 million is expected in December. The money was included in a funding proposal list issued by the commission.

VTA will receive community outreach support from Lehigh University’s Institute for Cyber Physical Infrastructure and Western Regional Office. Lehigh students and faculty will develop educational resources and content to engage local and disadvantaged communities in the benefits of transit electrification, according to a VTA press release.

Scale Microgrid is headquartered in New Jersey and has an office in California where the project will be managed. The company was founded in 2016 and builds solar microgrids for commercial and industrial clients. This microgrid project is the first fleet electrification effort for the company and signals plans for its expansion.

Ryan Goodman, CEO and co-founder of Scale Microgrid, said in a VTA press release that he expects the project to provide a blueprint for fleet electrification throughout the United States.

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