The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently announced plans to begin capturing the braking energy of its trains and integrating the energy back into the regional electric grid.

SEPTA and partner, Viridity Energy, will begin the pilot project on the Market-Frankford Line in Philadelphia. Viridity Energy is a smart grid technology firm that specializes in electric market integration.


SEPTA trains in Philadelphia on the Market-Frankfort line. Credit: SEPTA.

“Through this pilot project, SEPTA will become even more energy efficient, which will help control operating costs–benefiting both customers and taxpayers,” said General Manager at SEPTA, Joe Casey. “We’ve made our system cleaner, greener and more efficient in recent years – things like replacing traditional diesel buses with diesel-electric hybrids and installing energy-efficient lighting at stations, facilities and offices. These measures are helping us control costs in tough economic conditions – and making us a better neighbor in the communities we serve.”

“We are excited to be a part of this groundbreaking achievement,” said CEO and President of Viridity Energy, Audrey Zibelman. “In a smart grid world, two-way digital information exchange opens up new horizons. This project truly showcases the potential of that smart grid world, particularly as it applies to the transportation industry. By harnessing the regenerative braking power of the trains and empowering SEPTA to become a virtual power generator that can provide valuable and environmentally responsible service to the electric grid, we can fulfill the promise of interconnected systems on the grid and behind the meter responding dynamically to reliability and economic signals to strengthen the grid.”

When subway trains stop, the kinetic energy from the train braking is converted into electricity. Without a system in place to store or capture energy, the kinetic energy is often unused. SEPTA’s plan is to use Saft lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology which will supply megawatt level energy storage for the project and create the first dual purpose trackside Energy Storage Systems (ESS) in the United States.

“As a fully integrated, containerized Li-ion solution, the Saft system provides efficiency of greater than 95 percent and maximizes system availability, as well as help[ing] to manage power flows,” said President of Saft America, Thomas Alcide.

“This project has high visibility within our company because it bridges two of the key industries we serve – transportation and energy,” said General Manager of ABB-Envitech, Daniel Cotton. “It is a model that is perfectly aligned with our vision of the smart grid and greener transportation for the future. We believe the people of Philadelphia should be proud that two local companies, SEPTA and Viridity, have shown the leadership for making this project a world’s first of its kind.”




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