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New RIPTA Buses Equipped with Cost-Saving and Energy-Efficient Solar Panels

January 13, 2020

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) announced today that thanks to a state grant and the technology of a Warwick-based company, RIPTA’s new 2019 buses are equipped with cost-saving solar systems.  The systems are designed specifically for the transportation industry and will extend the vehicle battery life and optimize battery performance as well. The thirty-three new buses, manufactured by GILLIG Bus Manufacturing in California, are part of regular fleet refurbishment and replace older buses that are being retired.

Manufactured by eNow Inc. of Warwick, the systems use solar energy to optimize battery life performance, resulting in more reliability when buses are started and less strain on the alternator throughout the day as the vehicles operate auxiliary systems such as on-board electronics.  The solar energy is captured by lightweight panels installed on the roofs of the buses. The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is helping to finance the project with a renewable energy grant of $42,800 that covered about two thirds of the cost.

“Equipping our RIPTA buses with solar systems is proof that smart investments in renewable energy benefit both the environment and our economy,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo.  “This program not only supports a cutting-edge clean technology company in Warwick, but will help make commuting with RIPTA a more energy efficient option for riders. I look forward to continuing to make Rhode Island a leader in clean energy.”

Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer, noted that the decision to purchase the solar panels was made after RIPTA worked with eNow for more than two years on a pilot program to test the effectiveness of their solar panels on buses. “It’s been great working with eNow on this project,” he said, “and we’re very grateful to the Commerce Corporation for making funds available that help us save energy, time and money. This project is a win on many levels – we are working with the state to introduce alternative energy sources into public transit, we’re partnering with a Rhode Island company, and we’re collecting data that will be helpful to others in the transit industry.”

“By adding eNow solar systems to their buses, RIPTA has taken center stage nationally and locally,” said Jeff Flath, founder, President and CEO of eNow. “It is the first public transit system in the country to add advanced mobile solar systems on a large scale. RIPTA is also supporting our local business community by partnering with eNow, an industry-leading, clean-technology company based right here in Rhode Island.”

The Commerce Corporation provided the grant through the Renewable Energy Fund (REF). The fund provides grant and loan opportunities for renewable energy technologies for commercial and public projects.

“The REF’s mission is to provide grants for renewable energy projects that have the potential to produce electricity in a cleaner, more sustainable manner, said William Ash, Managing Director of Financial Services for Rhode Island Commerce. “eNow has developed an innovative technology that contributes to the reduction in vehicle emissions. Additionally, the project was aided by Commerce’s Small Business Loan Fund to assist in the development of the solar panel and battery systems to be utilized in the RIPTA application. Thanks and congratulations to Annie Ratanasim who manages our Renewable Energy Fund, eNow, and RIPTA for their partnership and implementation of this important project.”

While the eNow solar systems on the new RIPTA buses optimize battery performance and battery life, the trucking industry has already been using this technology to reduce CO2 emissions.  Most trucks need to use their engines to power auxiliary systems such as heating and air conditioning, safety lighting, and refrigeration units.  Trucks equipped with the eNow solar systems can operate those systems without keeping their engines running, therefore reducing their use of diesel fuel and dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For RIPTA, maximizing battery life and performance will represent a savings estimated at more than $80,000 a year.   Each of the new 2019 buses is equipped with two batteries, which cost about $365 each.  With the eNow system, RIPTA will need to replace batteries less frequently and will also save on costly road calls.

Avedisian said that RIPTA will explore the feasibility of having the panels installed on more buses in the future.  Weighing only 19 pounds and not much thicker than a couple of credit cards stacked together, the solar  panels are flexible and can conform to the vehicle they are fitted for.  They draw on solar power to keep batteries at optimum levels – improving performance and extending the life of the batteries.

eNow was founded in 2011 with a focus on the trucking industry and was the first company of its kind to develop mobile solar systems for commercial transportation. It currently sells its products throughout North America and says its goal is to “provide industry-specific solar solutions to companies that embrace profit, planet and people.”

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