CATS: Energy, environment, money-saving train-braking system makes sense

Number 35 in the Clean Air Technologies Series.

Ideas, innovations and inventions that save energy, save the air and save money make sense, most definitely.

Carbon ceramic disc brake
Carbon ceramic disc brake

Now imagine a device capable of converting energy from braking and turning it into useful electricity.

Well, imagine no more as that technology has arrived, that is, in the railway realm.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), in its “Will Brake For Batteries: SEPTA, Constellation, and Viridity Energy Announce 8.75-Megawatt Energy Storage Project: One of the nation’s largest behind-the-meter battery storage networks will capture and reuse the energy created by braking subway trains,” press release expressed in no uncertain terms: “A battery storage network, which captures and reuses the energy created by braking subway cars, will help Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) reduce operating costs, ensure energy resiliency, and support the stability of the energy grid.

“Constellation, a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation, will fund, own, and operate the 8.75 megawatt battery storage network, deployed at seven SEPTA substations,” the Pennsylvania-based transportation agency in the release further expressed. “The network is designed to used (sic) stored energy to power trains as they accelerate from stations and can provide emergency generation for trains in the event of a power outage. An expansion of SEPTA’s 1.8 MW battery storage pilot program completed in 2014, the new network brings the agency’s total battery storage capacity to more than 10 MW.”

In the SEPTA application, the “stored energy will help to balance electric load on the PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that manages the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states and the District of Columbia,” SEPTA went on to explain in the release. “Viridity Energy will provide energy market services for the project, bidding the batteries into the PJM market as frequency regulation resources to help match generation with demand and maintain the desired electrical frequency on the grid.”

The expectation is that the system, according to information presented in said release, is to be commercially operational later this year.

And, around the corner?

From this, one can surmise a world of possibilities. Take, for example, the two brake-system components responsible for the braking function that results in the slowing and/or stopping action – brake shoe and corresponding rolling wheel or brake pad and corresponding wheel-attached rotating disc (in a disc-brake system) – with brakes engaged (i.e., the former in each case contacting the latter with the necessary and sufficient amount of applied pressure and hence causing braking action) and how this works. Imagine being able to capture the heat produced via the friction created in the braking process and converting it into electricity directly. From this the use potential would be virtually limitless.

Who knows?! Application of this very technology in the automobile realm might be just around the corner. In battery-electric-vehicle (BEV) applications for one, the ability to recharge batteries via the conversion of brake energy into electrical energy especially while in transit, well, the advantage of doing such not only speaks volumes, it goes without saying!

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Top image above: Dana60Cummins

About Alan Kandel

Alan turned hardscrabble technology related experience into a professional writing gig and has never looked back. Alan resides in California's heartland - the San Joaquin Valley.

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