"There's no better place than New Mexico to convert sunlight into electricity", said Dewey Cave, Interim Executive Director, Mid-Region Council of Governments. "This emerging technology has numerous environmental and economic benefits. It makes perfect sense to pair it with the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, which is also a clean, efficient and environmentally friendly system".
The systems will be mounted on shade structures covering parking spaces at both the Belen and U.S. 550/Sandoval County Rail Runner Stations. These two stations were selected due to their high number of riders, the stations' high visibility to the populations of two different counties and high parking volumes. Both systems will include informational signage and real-time Internet monitoring of electricity production to demonstrate clean energy technologies and promote alternative transportation.
"These projects enhance the service that the commuter rail system and related bus systems offer regional residents," said Isaac Benton, Chair of the Rio Metro Board. "They also offer the State of New Mexico an opportunity to lead by example in areas of alternative energy and energy conservation projects".
Estimates show that the PV systems will meet 85 percent of electricity needs of these stations. Additionally, a portion of the covered parking spaces will be dedicated for carpool cars, which could result in an estimated 9,600 gallons of petroleum saved annually.
The initiative is being funded by a $438,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the State of New Mexico's Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Rio Metro will also contribute funds to the project. In its first year, the system is projected to result in approximately $27,000 in savings for the Regional Transit District.
The South Capital Rail Runner Station's photovoltaic system went online in August of 2009, and has since generated 7,000 kWh of electricity.
Construction on the PV systems at the Belen and U.S. 550 Rail Runner stations is scheduled to begin in the next four months and take about three months to complete. Both stations will operate on their normal schedules during the construction phase.