Sound Transit’s Link light rail system is now running on 100 percent carbon-free electricity, making it the first major light rail system in the country to achieve this milestone.
The accomplishment is made possible through an innovative agreement with Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to purchase wind energy directly from the utility’s Green Direct program. The agreement with PSE is projected to save more than $390,000 in electricity costs over the 10-year contract while also supporting the creation of local clean energy jobs, according to a Dec. 1 Sound Transit news release.
“Innovative projects like PSE’s Green Direct program demonstrate how Washington state continues to be a national leader in the clean energy economy,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in the news release. “Puget Sound residents can now travel on Sound Transit’s carbon-free light rail while supporting our local economy and homegrown solutions to solve our global climate crisis.”
“Sound Transit is now at the national forefront of operating carbon-free transit,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “What’s exciting about this partnership is that we are demonstrating that sustainability leadership can be accomplished by simultaneously lowering costs for taxpayers while maximizing positive impacts to the local economy.”
The Green Direct program supplies renewable energy to customers from the largest wind project in Western Washington, the Skookumchuk Wind Facility, in Thurston and Lewis counties, just south of Olympia. Green Direct provides renewable energy directly to six Link Light Rail accounts that serve the Airport Station and Angle Lake Station in SeaTac, according to the news release. These six accounts alone account for just over 70% of the agency’s greenhouse gas emissions from electricity. Because the rest of the Link system is powered by Seattle City Light, the nation’s first carbon neutral electric utility, all of Link light rail now runs on carbon-free and renewable energy.
Sound Transit is constructing the extension of light rail from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way, scheduled to open in 2024.
The Green Direct program will help Sound Transit advance efforts to meet its sustainability goals and implement sustainability initiatives from the voter-approved Sound Transit 3 ballot measure. The agency is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expanding the use of renewable energy and making all electricity used for operations carbon free by 2030.
Sound Transit is a national leader in transit sustainability and a Platinum level signatory to the American Public Transportation Association’s Sustainability Commitment. Sound Transit values external validation of its sustainability efforts and is a member of The Climate Registry (TCR), the premier organization supporting governments in North America to measure, report and verify their carbon footprints.
In advance of executing the Green Direct agreement, the agency secured Climate Registered Silver recognition status from TCR by conducting an external audit of its 2018 light rail greenhouse gas inventory and elements of its carbon-free claims; Sound Transit is currently seeking third-party verification of its entire greenhouse gas inventory to continue to verify claims of carbon-free operations.
“We applaud Sound Transit on achieving carbon-free operations in the Link Light Rail system,” said Amy Holm, executive director of The Climate Registry (TCR). “As a TCR member and a recipient of Climate Registered Silver status, Sound Transit is part of an important North American community of climate leaders who are managing and reducing carbon emissions. We look forward to supporting Sound Transit in their goal of achieving agency-wide carbon-free operations by 2050.”
In addition to continuing to partner with the Green Direct program, in the coming months Sound Transit will be adding a 100KW solar power installation to the Operations and Maintenance Facility– East in Bellevue.
In 2021, the agency will receive additional renewable energy from Phase 2 of the Green Direct Program to power the remainder of its PSE accounts, which will enable Sound Transit to reduce its agency-wide greenhouse gas emissions from electricity by 96%.
More information on Sound Transit’s sustainability program is available on soundtransit.org/sustainability.