Via Mobility Services
During a September 2013 flood, residents of Boulder, Colorado faced widespread outages, compromised transportation options, and damaged homes and roadways. Communities had to rely on emergency aid from governmental and nonprofit agencies, but widespread outages meant that critical services were either offline entirely or severely debilitated.
Vulnerable populations are already at greater risk during a disaster and a power outage can quickly result in a life threating situation. Over a three year period, the City of Boulder worked with the region’s leading nonprofit mobility services provider, Via Mobility Services (Via), to create a resilient energy solution to the transportation challenges faced by Boulder’s elderly and disabled residents during an emergency.
Via is a nonprofit mobility services provider that operates a variety of transportation programs for seniors, people with disabilities, and others living with mobility limitations in Colorado. Through a partnership with the City of Boulder, Independent Power Systems (IPS), and Pos-En, resilience upgrades at the Via facility were designed to provide backup power for transportation, facility operations, and IT critical loads. The upgrades included a solar PV array, battery storage, natural gas generator, electric bus chargers, and a smart control system.
The solar+storage system consists of a 10.7-kW PV solar array directly connected to a 57.2-kW Lithium-Titanium Oxide battery. The system is dedicated to powering critical IT loads, which is primarily computer and phone systems, during normal business operations as well as when grid outages occur. For non-critical facility loads, such as lighting, HVAC, and electric bus charging, an automatic switch transfers the power from the grid to a natural gas generator in five seconds.
Since the upgrades, Via has operated off-grid in one instance, on June 4th, 2018. The system operated as expected; the automatic transfer switch removed the facility from the grid and operations relied solely on power provided by the backup generator and solar+storage system.
The total cost of the solar+storage system, including the gas generator, electrical work, solar array, and battery, was $330,243. Savings from avoided outages could range from $8,000 to $11,500 per year and the solar PV array is expected to generate over $500 in annual electric savings. Project costs were split between the Department of Energy’s Resilient Energy Delivery Infrastructure initiative, which funded development of smart grid technologies in local governments that have experienced a recent major disaster, and County Worthy Cause funds contributed by Via. The City of Boulder was also awarded a Resilient Power Technical Assistance Fund grant from Clean Energy Group to conduct technical and financial feasibility analyses on several properties.
Year Commissioned: 2018
Services Provided: Backup power, EV charging
Supported Infrastructure: Community transportation services
Solar: 10.7-kW solar array
Storage: 57.2-kW/14.3-kWh lithium-titanium oxide batteries (Toshiba)
Project Partners: City of Boulder, Via Mobility Services, Pos-En, Eaton, Woodward, Independent Power Systems, Clean Energy Group, U.S. Department of Energy
Resilient Power Project Case Study – Via Mobility Services (Clean Energy Group, November 2018). This case study includes technical and financial details, as well as lessons learned over the course of the project. Read it here.