PV Electrical Energy – John W. Olver Transit Center


Photo Courtesy of Charles Rose Architects

Quick Facts

Year of Implementation: 2012
Type of Energy System: Geothermal + Photovoltaic + Wood Pellet Boiler
Location: Greenfield, MA, U.S.A.
Climate: Cold_5A
Built Context: Urban
Area: 2 acres (Building Surface: 24,000 SF)
Annual Energy Production: 123,000 kWh/yr =11 PA Household
Scale: Building


Historically having rail service in the past but losing out on sustained service in the age of automobile development, the John W Olver Transit Center helps to return rail service to the region of Northwest Massachusetts while also creating a hub for intercity transportation services like Peter Pan and Greyhound, but also houses Franklin Regional Transit Authority and Franklin Regional Council of Government.

As John W. Olver succeeded to become the first zero-net-energy transit center in the United States, it serves as a pioneer for the other federal buildings in the area to transform into more sustainable and eco-friendly buildings.

Besides its significant pioneering effect for sustainability, the transit center is also “expected to be a catalyst for redevelopment and growth in the region”. As it will also serve as a link to the Amtrak Station and become a new and creative landmark in Greenfield for its welcoming and comfortable design features.

Year of Implementation + Location + Climate Zone

The construction of John W. Olver was completed in May, 2012, and it was opened in 2012.


In terms of Climate Zone, it is categorized as Cold, 5A. The annual hour of sunshine is 2304hrs. Average annual snowfall is 49.9in; and average perception of rainfall is 49.5in, which is a little rainy and snowy.
Type of System + Scale


The whole energy system is composed of Geothermal, Photovoltaic, and Wood Pellet Boiler. The site area for Transit Center is 2 acres with a 24,000 sq ft building at Northeast corner of the site.

System Description + Dimensions

The overall energy production system can be divided into two types of systems, Mechanical and Electrical.

  • Mechanical system
    The mechanical system is composed of 22 geothermal wells buried 405 ft deep and a 750 MBH boiler fueled by wood pellets.


    The system constructs a diversified mechanical energy production process. The System collects heat from three sources: The solar heat collector, that installed on the façade grabs solar power; geothermal wells, pump up heat from the ground; and boiler burns efficient wood pellet to generate heat. After collecting heat together by the Ground Source Heat Pump, the heated air is exchanged by Air Handling Unit and then conditioned to ventilate the building.

Electrical System


The electrical System is composed of 96kw ground-mounted photovoltaic array, the size of which is 7,300 ft2 with over 450 panels.


The electric energy system is a grid-connected photovoltaic system. After absorbing solar power, electricity can be converted via an inverter in the electrical room to power needed for building operations (lighting and electronics), as well as energy needed to run some of the mechanical systems; Additional power can also be stored for future consumption. During non-peak hours, the building is also capable of feeding back into the electrical grid excess energy which provides the local government with an electrical utility credit.

Other Key Energy-Saving Features

  • Air-conditioning provided by an active “chilled beam” system
  • Solar wall preheats fresh air in winter prior to intake
  • Second-stage preheating via ground source heat-pump system
  • Air-handling unit incorporates variable-speed fans and energy recovery wheel
  • Daylight modeling used to determine optimal placement of windows and skylights
  • All artificial light controlled by system incorporating occupancy sensors, photocells ,and dimming control
  • LED light fixtures provided for parking lots
  • Low-flow water fixtures yielding approximately 35% water savings

Annual Energy Production


The annual energy production of PV panel is 123,000 kWh/yr, which approximately contributes to half of the total energy consumption of 246,179 kWh. The produced electricity can support 11 PA household for a year. With PVWatts Calculation, the result of electricity annual production is 127,215 kWh/yr which is a little higher than real situation. The small difference of the data could be influenced by various factors, however already indicates the good performance of the PV panels.

Other Benefits

Being one of the first redevelopment parcels within Downtown Greenfield, the Transit Center has been a catalyst for downtown revitalization and investment. IT has also let to a greater awareness of the benefits of sustainability.

While its primary function is that of a multimodal Transit Center, the John W. Olver Transit Center also provides office and community meeting space for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

Stakeholders Involved



Federal State and Local Partnerships across a multitude of agencies made this project possible for the People of N.W. Massachusetts.

Transit Agencies

  • MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Agency)
  • FTA (Federal Transportation Administration)
  • MassDot (Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation)
  • FRTA (Franklin Regional Transit Authority)

Governmental Agencies

  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Federal Government
  • Franklin Regional Council of Governments
  • City of Greenfield

Design Team

Architect and Engineers involved

  • Architect: Charles Rose Architects
  • Owner’s Representative: McMahon
  • Structural Engineer: RSE Associates Inc.
  • MEP, FP Engineer: ARUP
  • Civil Engineer: Nitsch Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineer: McPhail Associates, Inc.
  • Landscape Architect: GroundView, LLC
  • Building Envelope Consultant: Building Envelope Technologies, Inc.
  • Lighting Consultant: Reflex Lighting Group, Inc.
  • Specification Writer: Kalin Associates
  • Code Consultant: W. Sullivan Engineering


Necessary Policies + Resources in place

Bank Row Urban Renewal Plan | 2008
The Greenfield Redevelopment Authority were looking to reinvest in Downtown Greenfield, sponsoring various renewal plans. A Centralized Transit Center was called for in the urban renewal plans for the Bank Row section of downtown Greenfield. At the time the Transit Station was a Long-term goal of the proposal, pending the appropriate funding be in place first.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 | Feb 2009
One of the mechanisms for turning around the U.S. economy after the Economic Recession of the late 00’s was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which allocated Federal Funds to State Governments for State Prioritized funding and projects.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Prioritization | 2009
Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts pushed for ARRA funds to be used for Near-term and Long-term Transit Projects that were shovel ready but were being held for funding.

U.S. Executive Order 13514 | Oct 2009
Known as the Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, expanded a previous energy standards executive order by mandating that by 2015 15% of existing Federal buildings conform to new energy efficiency standards and that 100% of all new Federal buildings be Zero-Net-Energy by 2030.


Possible Implications

Initial Cost
During the time of the Economic Recession of the late 00’s the Initial Cost of this project made any sole local agency balk at attempting this type of project. The technologies involved with any Zero-Net Energy building are immense. From initial design, estimating, and construction, making these custom systems requires a lot of preparation and coordination with professionals skilled at making these custom systems.

However over the life of a project, the cost savings and

Equipment Replacement Costs
While the overall price of items like Solar Panels are coming down, costs associated with any equipment that may breakdown prematurely would add concern to property owners trying to justify such an investment in newer technologies vs. traditional methods.

Energy Consumption Issues
If the Mechanical system or Electrical System working within this building underperform for the anticipated amounts of work they are supposed to do, property owners would be compelled to either add on a backup system and/or switch out the system for a more traditional method.

Case Study by Ernest Bellamy and Yidan Gong




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