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Minneapolis transit agency aims to up solar energy usage

Metro Transit plans to increase the amount of solar power produced at agency-owned buildings by adding rooftop arrays to several new sites in 2016.

Crews will install solar panels at a light-rail maintenance facility on the METRO Blue Line, as well as at bus garages in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington, Minn. These solar arrays will produce half the energy used at those sites, Metro Transit officials said in a news release last week.

The move is part of an agreement approved last week by the Metropolitan Council, which oversees the transit agency.

"Conserving resources and protecting the environment is what transit is all about," said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. "Our passengers are doing their part to reduce their environmental impact and we want to match that commitment by putting sustainability at the forefront of everything we do."

SolarCity, a solar power systems provider, will pay for the equipment and its installation. Metro Transit will save $4 million in energy costs over the next 25 years by paying a fixed rate for the energy, agency officials said.

Collectively, the new rooftop arrays will produce 4.7 megawatts of solar power, which marks a "dramatic" increase from the amount of solar energy currently being produced at other Metro Transit sites with solar panels, agency officials said.

Combined with a subscription to Community Solar Gardens at Metropolitan Council-owned sites, the new rooftop arrays will produce about 16 percent of Metro Transit's expected 2016 electrical use, the majority of which results from powering light-rail vehicles.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/28/2015