By Anna Chen, March 31, 2014
Thanks to Tom Kefalas and Cris Liban, Director of Metro Environmental Compliance Services, we now know the answer is yes. From August through September 2013, Metro conducted a one-month pilot program to see if wind energy could safely and effectively be captured and used. The project involved working with engineers from WWT Tunnel, LLC, a subcontractor to Arcadis U.S., to create and install a unique 10-foot multi-blade mass airflow collection equipment (MACE) in the Red Line tunnel. To our knowledge, this is the first time a transit agency has tested the effect of having a wind turbine in a subway tunnel.
The MACE was installed between the North Hollywood and Universal City stations, a segment of the tunnel that sees trains reaching speeds of up to 70 mph. Each time a train left the station, the MACE fan blades would start spinning, thus capturing energy up to a minute before the train actually passed by. The blades would continue to spin up to 2 minutes after the train passed, and exceeded 1,070 revolutions per minute (RPM). The amount of electricity produced by these train initiated events was nearly double the amount that had originally been anticipated.
During the run of the pilot program, the MACE generated an average of 77.7 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day. It is projected that the 10-foot MACE section could generate more than 28,000 kWh per year–enough to power about 12 homes in California for one year, or turn out approximately $6,000 per year in electrical production.
In addition, a single 10-foot MACE unit could potentially help Metro avoid using electricity that would have generated more than 17 tons of CO2 emissions annually if created from natural gas, or more than 30 tons of CO2 emissions annually if created by a coal-powered plant.
This is great news for Metro as the agency strives to become ever greener. The MACE can safely and efficiently collect clean electrical power from wind that is already being produced by passing trains. Due to the regularity of the speed and schedule of Metro trains, the power generated is far more reliable than above-ground wind and solar power, and the electrical power generated can be used in various ways. It can be stored for use to avoid power spikes in usage during flex alerts or high demand periods. In AC format, the power could also be stored and used to provide power for electric vehicle charging stations, station and tunnel lights, escalators and more. And because the project is entirely underground, no CEQA environmental clearance process was required.
Since the end of the pilot program, Metro staff has been analyzing the data captured. Over the next year, Metro staff will follow up with a report evaluating the best use of MACE generated power and the feasibility of installing MACE into existing and new rail line tunnels, including the Regional Connector, the Purple Line Extension and the underground segments of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.
A report of the MACE pilot program by WWT Tunnel is available here.