Los Angeles adds its name to the growing list of cities searching for creative ways to go green.
The L.A. Metro will now use recycled kinetic energy to power its trains by installing a Wayside Energy Storage Substation (WESS). The concept is relatively simple: save and collect the energy created by breaking and use it while the train accelerates. The project is estimated to cost $3.6 million, and will be overseen by Vycon, a leader in eco-friendly flywheel systems.
According to Metro’s project manager Frank Castro, “Metro is committed to an extensive energy savings and sustainability program. In the last five years, two megawatts of photovoltaic energy-saving equipment has been already installed. The WESS Project alone, with its two megawatts of flywheel energy recycling power capacity, will double this number.”
The technology is similar to that used in hybrid cars, except on a much larger scale. Vycon experts estimate that the technology is able to put back 90 percent of what it captures. The flywheels would be located at the station, allowing the train to send back power via rail.
Besides reduced energy costs, the WESS system would also reduce the number of train slowdowns and increase system reliability by improving power capacity. The system would also aid in storing power that would be useful in the case of outages or emergencies.
The Los Angeles project is funded by the Federal Transit Administration, made possible, in part, by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
New York City experimented with a similar project, using flywheels on the Long Island Rail Road through a $5.2 million contract.
In June 2012, when Audi’s R18 e-tron Quattro became the first hybrid vehicle to win the Le Mans race, it used the same technology that will be used in the Los Angles metro. The front wheels were controlled by an electric motor while the back wheels were powered by a V6 engine.