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DART gets $2.5M to build solar canopy at Dover facility

DART / Facebook

DART is receiving a 2.5 million dollar grant to build a solar canopy at its Dover Operations and Administration facility.


The funding for the solar array is part of 464 million in federal transit grants across 49 states to improve the safety and reliability of transit systems.


Delaware Transit Corporation CEO John Sisson says these canopies will serve a dual purpose.


So this canopy system with solar arrays on it will do two things. One, obviously produce electricity for us but it will also cover our buses, keep them out of the elements. We’ve been figuring out better ways to keep snow off of them in the winter, keep them cooler in the summer.”


The solar array will also be able to provide electricity to the six electric buses the facility houses.


The state bought 16 electric buses a few years ago with federal funds. Sisson says they’re currently testing them out to find out how much money can be saved in maintenance and fuel over the 12 year lifespan of a bus.


Sisson says this is part of their goal to find greener ways to move people around.


“So electric might be the future. We also hope to explore in the next couple of years start looking at hydrogen as an alternative for our fueling. We’ll have these 16 buses in our fleet; we’ll run them through their paces, understand how well they perform, understand how well they work over 12 years, get a better sense of their cost to maintain, cost to operate and start making better decisions than the traditional diesel bus.”


While electric buses may have a shorter range than diesel powered ones, Sisson says their electric fleet is going to be retrofitted with a new charging system.


The buses will have a pantograph style charger that can fully charge the buses in under 5 minutes and charging stations along the bus route can extend the range just as far as a diesel style bus.


After the 12 year lifespan of the buses, the DTC will look at the costs of running the electric fleet compared to traditional buses to determine if they should focus on electric in the future.


Sisson notes that while the cost of these buses is more expensive up front, they make up for the money saved in purchasing diesel fuel and because there are less moving parts, maintaining the electric buses is cheaper and easier.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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