In spite of Kermit the Frog's long-standing assertion that "it's not easy being green," Atlanta now boasts a coveted award that suggests the amphibian's tall order isn't as difficult to achieve as one may have imagined. In fact, Atlanta's mass transit system, otherwise known as MARTA, was awarded a $10.8 million grant under the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction Grant Program in September of 2009. The grant was bestowed upon MARTA by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with the intention of not only creating unique economic opportunities, but to further the environmental initiatives in progress in the Atlanta area. LaHood proudly exclaimed his support of the project by noting the initiative is "truly a win-win for MARTA and for the environment. It shows that MARTA is helping to lead the way to make public transportation cleaner, greener, and more energy-efficient for everyone who lives and works in Greater Atlanta."
The Laredo Bus Maintenance Facility in Decatur will be the fortunate recipient of these proposed eco-friendly additions, beginning with energy-efficient solar panels that, when combined, will create an innovative solar canopy. The structures will be comprised of steel and concrete and draped with integrated solar photovoltaic (PV) cells that will cover 220 bus parking stalls and will generate electricity equal to the facility's annual electricity consumption. The canopy also has the incredible ability to reduce the temperature by 50 degrees underneath the structure due to efficient shading. Additionally, the project's attention to detail is exposed with the LED (light emitting diodes) additions to the canopy that will allow for maintenance activities during the night under ample amounts of light. In turn, the structure will be the largest of its kind in the state of Georgia!
Since its implementation, the solar-powered bus garage has certainly altered the means of consumption and is proving to be overwhelmingly beneficial. The panels will generate over 1,200,000 kilowatt hours annually with a net income of $159,280. Local electricity giant Georgia Power has supported the project by agreeing to negotiated rates and selling the compensated power back to the power grid, with a credit then supplied to MARTA.
In regards to the initiative as an economic opportunity, thirty-two jobs will be created as a result of the canopy, ranging from sales to manufacturing. MARTA has further demonstrated green leadership by approving an overall sustainability policy that will assist in obtaining funding from the Energy Independence Security Act, as well as significantly reduce its carbon footprint by offsetting 0.6 percent of consumption through the PV panels alone.
As a reward for their gallant efforts, MARTA and the city of Atlanta were awarded the Clean Cities Lifetime Appreciation Award from the U.S. Department of Energy. This award reflected not only the solar panel garage effort, but also the implementation of the natural gas operated bus fleet that is currently saving seven million gallons of petroleum annually. In order to maintain its green leadership status, MARTA has become a signatory to the American Public Transportation Association's Sustainability Program, which demands proactive plans to increase energy efficiency and environmental preservation.
As the largest recipient of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Initiative, the ideal way to reward the company's participation would be to take full advantage of public transit. Originally marketed as the eco-friendly form of transportation, public transit has become a prime example of the simplicity of green living. Support sustainability by re-acquainting with Atlanta's finest on wheels: MARTA.