The National Academies

Transit IDEA J-04/IDEA 66 [Completed (IDEA)]

Advanced Wayside Energy Storage Systems (WESS) for Rail Transit
[ TCRP J-04 (Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis--The Transit IDEA Program) ]

  Project Data
Staff Responsibility: Jon M. Williams
Research Agency: Navigant Consulting, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Colette Lamontagne
Completion Date: 12/23/2013
Fiscal Year: 2011

This project explored the use of wayside energy storage systems (WESS) in rail transit systems. The analysis monetized economic and technical benefits for transit agencies but also considered other stakeholders. Navigant Consulting modeled the costs and benefits of various applications through hypothetical simulations as well as case studies using real data from our participating transit agencies: Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) and Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD).

Six different WESS technologies were modeled including: flywheels, ultracapacitors, and lead acid, sodium sulfur, lithium ion, and zinc bromide batteries. The cost, benefit, and net present value (NPV) were calculated for seven simulations for a hypothetical transit system and for two case studies.

The key findings were:

1) Combining applications provides benefits that result in the most attractive NPV. Simulations #6 modeled a combination of applications that resulted in a positive NPV.

2) Applications that solve a technical problem, such as to address a power quality or reliability issue, may be attractive to a transit agency even if the NPV is not positive. The important consideration is whether WESS is less expensive than the alternative technology.

3) The results for each of the applications could be improved with a reduction in WESS capital cost, which is expected for most technologies over the next few years as they become commercially available and are produced in larger quantities.

4) The financial value proposition for WESS would be improved by federal capital grants or other incentives. This project analyzed the value of WESS as an investment made solely by the transit agency without capital funds from other sources.

5) This analysis considered the business case for a transit agency and therefore monetized on the benefits that accrue to the transit agency. However, if a societal perspective had been modeled and other benefits were monetized, WESS would likely be much more attractive in these applications.

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