Solar bus charging project, called nation’s largest, completed in Silver Spring

The nation’s largest solar-powered bus-charging depot has been completed in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Montgomery County celebrated the completion of the bus microgrid and charging project on Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Brookville Smart Energy Depot.

The project was completed through a partnership between the county’s Department of General Services and AlphaStruxure, a Boston-based energy infrastructure provider that describes itself as a leader in energy-as-a-service solutions that also engaged Arup for detailed engineering on the project.

The Silver Spring depot is the third microgrid in the country that will use solar power to charge buses for public transportation.

“This project has been garnering attention nationally because it is innovative, groundbreaking, and will help us achieve our ambitious climate action plan to reduce all carbon emissions by 2035,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.

The goal, he said, is to fill the charging stations with 70 electric buses by 2026. The county currently has 14 and hopes to extend the fleet to 44 by next year.

“Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas. We are leading by example by going emission-free,” Elrich said. “We are well on our way to our goal of an emissions-free fleet by 2035 and improving the county’s resilience.”

The project will be delivered at no upfront cost to the county through a long-term agreement with AlphaStruxure, according to a news release.

The bus station includes solar panels installed on tall canopies with charging stations, on-site battery storage and backup generation at the existing MCDOT Ride On bus depot.

Federal funds were used to purchase the first four electric buses, according to the news release.

The electric buses seen in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Courtesy Montgomery County Government)

Transitioning 70 buses from diesel to electric buses that are powered by the new microgrid will reduce lifetime emissions by 62%, which is equal to more than 160,000 tons of greenhouse gas reduction over the next 25 years, according to the news release.

“The Brookville Solar Project ensures uninterrupted bus services during any long-term power outages caused by severe weather as well as any short-term disturbances of the utility grid,” said Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz. “With global warming and our increase in aggressive weather events, building for resiliency is so important. Many of our residents are dependent on our public transportation system for essential trips, and we’re helping to ensure its reliability.”

MCDOT has developed a “Bus Transition Plan” to ensure the current 400-bus fleet is on track to become a zero-emissions fleet by 2035, according to the release.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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