City to look at $14M investment for ‘clean’ fleet 

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

In an effort to make sure the city complies with state energy mandates, Santa Clarita is looking to invest approximately $14 million for its renewable energy fleet at this week’s City Council meeting.  
The city’s plan calls for the council to approve a contract with Trillium, a renewable chemical startup, in order for the company to build a hydrogen production and fueling station at the city’s Transit Maintenance Facility. 

The plan, if approved, would authorize: a $12.3 million design contract for the station; a $1.2 million partnership with Southern California Edison for utility upgrades and permits; a $60,000 spend with the SCV Water Agency for the same purpose; and another $420,000 to pay for future testing and inspection materials, according to the City Council agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. 

In explaining the transition, city transit officials also noted Santa Clarita does not plan to retire any of its fleet — which includes 56 transit buses, 30 commuter buses and 21 Dial-a-Ride vehicles — before their scheduled sunset dates, said Adrian Aguilar, transit manager for the city of Santa Clarita. 

“We plan to get the most out of our investment,” Aguilar said, noting the move was to make sure the city stayed on track, so to speak, with state mandates that dictate cities move to renewable fleets. 

The plans were made necessary by state regulations put in place in December 2018, according to the city’s agenda, when, near the end of Gov. Jerry Brown’s fourth term, the California Air Resources Board adopted the Innovative Clean Transit, or ICT, regulation. 

“The regulation requires all public transit agencies to gradually transition to a 100% zero-emission bus fleet and encourages them to provide innovative first- and last-mile connectivity and improved mobility for transit riders,” according to CARB’s website. “All California transit agencies, regardless of size, are required to submit and update their agency and bus fleet information annually.” 

The agenda notes that while Trillium’s estimate came in about $4 million higher than the other bidder on the project, the city is recommending the costlier bid because it expects to recoup the cost difference.  

Accepting the bid from Clean Energy, the other applicant, would require the city to rebid the project to include the requirement of a liquid-hydrogen delivery option, as well make the city liable for swings in cost regarding the purchase of liquid hydrogen, according to the city’s agenda. While liquid-delivery projects are cheaper initially to construct, delivering hydrogen costs 70% to 90% more than producing it on site, city staffers note, and the city would recover the difference in fewer than eight years. 

“By 2040, it is anticipated that the hydrogen station will need to produce approximately 2,200 kilograms of hydrogen per day,” according to the city’s agenda, “to meet the needs of a 100% hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet.” 

Under the current configuration, the proposed station, if approved, would be able to produce up to almost 460 kilograms of hydrogen per day, so the project would need to be expanded at some point, Aguilar said, but “not for a little while.” 

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