Solar power and EV charging for commuter parking

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The City of Industry, Calif. Unveiled its cutting-edge 2-megawatt solar installation at the Metrolink Public Transportation Station this week.

The city has its own municipal utility and will have to make strides toward meeting California state renewable energy portfolio standards soon, said city engineer J.D. Ballas. But for this project, the city’s first venture into solar, it contracted with Southern California Edison for a 20-year power purchase agreement.

“We wanted to get our feet wet before diving in,” Ballas said.

The solar panels are mounted atop carports that provide shelter for 940 vehicles parked at the Metrolink center where commuters can catch trains into downtown Los Angeles. In addition to powering LED lights, the system will feed into the electric grid and generate revenue for the city and will power 64 electric vehicle charging stations.

The city was initially going to include just 32 charging stations, Ballas said.

But then it received a major grant from Air Quality Management to purchase 28 electric vehicles and plans to conduct a lottery for commuters who use the parking lot. The winners will be able to lease electric vehicles and will be able to charge them at the Metrolink station for a small fee, Ballas said. With nearly all of the original charging station spaces accounted for, the city decided to double the number.

The parking area was open during construction, Ballas said. Almost 1,700 commuters use the lot.

City leaders were happy to learn that the drive paths in the lot were well-suited for southwest-facing solar panels. The project was a good start for the City of Industry, Ballas said.

“We were able to learn a lot of the ins and outs this way,” he said. “You can kind of think of it as a demonstration project, even though it might have been a little big for a demonstration project.”

The city will likely begin investigating solar projects to meet requirements for its municipal utility next, Ballas said.