Rail official unveils sustainability plan

Rail official unveils sustainability plan

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rail officials unveiled a new sustainability strategy that includes commercial-scale rooftop solar, electric vehicle charging stations and energy efficiency retrofits at its stations.

During a meeting of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's board, staffers said they are seeking a developer that would invest millions up front to build a solar photovoltaic system then sell the energy back to HART at a cheaper rate.

But some board members questioned whether the rail system will save even more money if it built its own solar system.

"Why wasn't PV incorporated into the building design from the get go," HART Chairman Don Horner asked.

"Why did we have to add it, you know what I mean. We paid good money to have an energy efficient building."

Dan Grabauskas, HART's CEO, said solar was originally part of the plan back in 2011 but was shelved to save costs.

"This is a discussion when I first arrive here that the (Federal Transit Administration)  was pushing my predecessor to reduce costs in areas that were not core to the project," Grabauskas said.

As of now, bids for the rail system's first ten miles, its operations center and nine of its stations do not include solar.

To add solar, they would either have to initiate costly change orders, or they would have to enter into a power purchase agreement with a solar provider, which would build and own the system. (Rail officials, however, can include solar in the final ten mile segment and its stations since those contracts haven't been issued yet.)

Environmentalist said Hart isn't doing enough to reduce its energy usage and its carbon footprint.

Anthony Aalto, chairman of the Sierra Club's Oahu Chapter, estimated that the rail system will reduce Oahu's carbon emission by 53,000 tons year by taking thousands of cars off of its roads. But he said the fuel burned to power the train system will create another 93,000 tons of these greenhouse gas emissions each year.

"When we look at some of the ways to reduce power demand, we're kind of disappointed," Aalto said.

"All of this other stuff is cute. I don't want to be too dismissive, it's kind of window dressing."

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