Even though a light rain was falling Monday morning, well over 150 people gathered under a score of solar panels as more than a half dozen electric buses were parked alongside a large white tent.
Elected officials, Montgomery County government staff and multiple private partners were celebrating a project that — thanks to when days are sunnier — would power 70 county electric buses by 2026.
“This is not rocket science,” County Executive Marc Elrich told those gathered on Monday. “If you can figure out the financing and the partners, you can do it.”
The county executive was referring to the Brookville Bus Depot in Silver Spring, a facility that consists of several solar arrays towering above dozens of buses on Brookville Road near the Georgetown Branch Trail and Rock Creek.
According to a news release, the existing depot was outfitted with a 6.5-megawatt microgrid that can produce more than 4.14 megawatts of charging capacity. Towering solar canopies cover the complex, which is home to 14 electric buses that are currently serving the county, according to Chris Conklin, director of the county’s Department of Transportation.
Elrich demonstrated how the buses are charged via a cord from the roof of the solar canopies as photographers and others looked on.
“I’m one of the skeptical people, because these buses need to get on the road and into service … [but] this is a great example of how to do it better,” Conklin said.
Elrich and Conklin were joined by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Kensington and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, along with county officials and representatives of the U.S. departments of transportation and energy. Private partners that worked on the project included AlphaStruxure, a nationwide energy and service provider, Schneider Electric and Carlyle, a D.C.-based investment firm.
During the next 25 years, the power generated by the bus depot is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 160,000 tons, according to the news release. County Council President Gabe Albornoz, Council Vice President Evan Glass and Council Member Tom Hucker told those gathered that the project is an example of how the county is working ambitiously to meet its climate goals — including a 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2027 and 100% reduction by 2035, according to the Climate Action Plan.
The county did not pay any upfront costs for the depot through a Efficiency as a Service (EaaS) contract with AlphaStruxure.
Albornoz said in an interview that the project is an example of how clean energy projects should be executed throughout the county.
“This is the start of what I think is going to be a really strong movement overall in the county,” he said.