Portland Awaits Innovative Solar and Wind Powered Light Rail Substation


About one month ago, construction began on this ambitious light rail substation for the South Terminus of TriMet's Portland Mall Light Rail Line.  The station, designed by Hennebery Eddy Architects, combines style with salvaged materials and a unique solar and wind power scheme. 

Solar panels and 22 small wind turbines from Oregon Wind (a new company we'll write about soon) will provide 75-90 percent of the power needed to operate the substation and communications buildings on-site, although TriMet still needs to secure funding on the alternative energy technologies.

The vertical axis wind turbines from Oregon Wind are four feet tall and perch on top of the same steel poles that support the rail catenary wires.  According to The Oregonian, the cost of the turbines should come to about $250,000, or just over $11,000 per turbine. 

The 50 kW solar array is expected to cost about $750,000.  When installed, a "meter" bench in the public plaza will display how much energy is being generated on-site by the solar and wind technologies.

The rest of the substation, which is located at SW Jackson Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, is being funded by $1.2 million in federal stimulus funds. Construction is expected to be complete by mid-February. 

One of the most striking aspects of the design is a coil drapery manufactured by Cascade Coil Drapery that will eventually support the solar array. The drapery also conceals, to a certain extent, two prefabricated transit utility buildings. 

The design has already been awarded an unbuilt merit award from the local AIA chapter, but don't expect the praise and attention to stop there.  We'll follow up later when the station is done with all the geeky, green elements. 

Rendering credit: Ambient Light Inc./Hennebery Eddy Architects.

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  • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

    By saying the substation “will provide 75-90 percent of the power needed for operations,” does this mean that the solar and wind power will supply electricity to run the trains?

    • Anonymous

      That would be AWESOME, but unlikely. Regardless, this is COOL.

      • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

        I don’t know, then, the use or destination of the power from the solar and wind sources.

        The article just says “for operations.”
        Which operations?

        • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

          Steven, this is a good question, and I’m looking into it. The article has been updated slightly, though. I know the power will go into the grid, but I don’t have a specific answer to your question.

  • http://mportlandrealestate.com/ Portland Condo Auctions

    Very cool. I cant wait for the day that TriMet is entirely self powered through smart placement of renewable energy units on its tracks and stops. Go Portland!


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elemental-Led/1527174144 Elemental Led

    “Substation” suggests a place that generates power. It doesn’t go into detail about this project on the Tri-Met web site, however. All of the light rail system is electric though, so presumably this contributes to an overall conservation of electricity.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

      I think a substation, in terms of a streetcar or light rail system, is a place that converts electricity from the grid to different voltage and current on which the trains run (from thousands of volts to 750 volts, and from AC to DC). Power for the trains run in sections and usually each section has its own substation.

  • Karen

    I’m just a domestic goddess but it seems to me everytime I go outside there is a breese. Why can’t there be small wind generators on every house? Is it because men design and so it has to be big? Is it because utilities are like government and run everything related to electricity?

    • Joe6809

      Things are big now, because it’s an expensive process to run. Compare it to early computers. It wasn’t until we knew enough about them and technology moved far enough along that we could build personal sized products. Eventually we’d be at that point with alternative energies, but today, they’re too expensive to justify if they aren’t putting out huge numbers.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KPH42IRZBNXCOJJ4EABJ6Z2US4 Zhang

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