SEPTA to install giant energy-saving battery

    SEPTA has chosen the French company Saft to manufacture a giant battery it hopes will help lower energy costs on the Market-Frankford line in Philadelphia.

    The battery, which will be housed in a custom-built shipping container in a substation near the Tioga stop in Kensington, will capture and store the energy released by trains when they decelerate.

    “Currently, the majority of that energy is being wasted because there’s nothing to use that power,” said SEPTA’s Andrew Gillespie. “It becomes heat off the top of the car, so we want to capture that wasted energy.”

    The battery will sit underground about a block away from the train tracks. Gillespie projects it will supply about 10 percent of the power needed out of that substation, and will save SEPTA around $100,000 a year in electricity costs.

    Right now, a small percentage of energy released by decelerating trains is transferred through the third rail, to give nearby trains leaving the station a boost. The battery system however, would capture more energy and store it for a longer time.

    The new battery will also bring in additional revenue by helping regulate the grid, making power available at times of peak electricity usage, said Audrey Zibelman, head of Conshohocken-based Viridity Energy, which is partnering with SEPTA on the effort.

    Zibelman says batteries have been installed in New York train stations in a similar pilot project, but this is the first effort she knows about that will also be able to perform regulatory functions.

    A SEPTA representative said the battery should be installed by January; if the project is successful, it may expand.

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