Los Angeles Times

How 8 school buses are helping in power shortages

Fleet can discharge stored electricit­y during peak demand times in a ‘vehicleto-grid’ pilot program.

- By Rob Nikolewski Nikolewski writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

A fleet of electric-powered school buses in El Cajon can send electricit­y back to California’s grid, thanks to first-of-its-kind technology developed by a San Diego company and a partnershi­p with San Diego Gas & Electric.

And soon other school districts in the area will be able to do the same.

“These buses are like storage on wheels,” said Gregory Poilasne, chief executive of Nuvve, a technology company that specialize­s in advancing vehicle-togrid projects.

Nicknamed V2G for short, the bidirectio­nal technology enables electric vehicle batteries that charge up during the day when solar energy is abundant on California’s power system to then discharge emissionfr­ee energy back to the electric grid when it is needed

the most.

In the case of the Cajon Valley Union School District, its f leet of eight all-electric school buses earlier this month successful­ly deployed the V2G technology in a pilot project in collaborat­ion with Nuvve and SDG&E. As part of a fiveyear effort, the utility installed eight 60-kilowatt direct current fast chargers in the school district’s bus yard in El Cajon.

This is the first V2G project to come online in the U.S.

“This is another distribute­d

energy resource that’s mobile, that’s on the road,” said Miguel Romero, SDG&E’s vice president of energy innovation. “There’s a significan­t amount of capacity in these batteries.”

Manufactur­ed by Lion Electric, the Cajon Valley buses have battery capacity of as much as 210 kilowatt-hours. That’s five times more than a typical electric car.

Scott Buxbaum, the school district’s assistant superinten­dent of business services, said the buses typically charge overnight when electricit­y prices are low. After the buses pick up and drop off students and drivers complete other chores, the batteries quickly get recharged and can then send electricit­y back to the grid.

“We can charge a bus in two to three hours from fully drained” using the fast chargers, Buxbaum said Tuesday at a news conference at the school district’s transporta­tion offices. “That’s really important to have a fast-charging process.”

California’s electricit­y system is particular­ly under stress during “net demand peak” — a crucial period when solar production wanes as the sun goes down but demand stays high, especially in the summertime, because people keep their air conditione­rs running and turn on their appliances after work.

With its bidirectio­nal chargers up and running, Cajon Valley can take part in another pilot program the California Public Utilities Commission recently establishe­d.

In an effort to reduce the risk of power outages when the grid is stressed, an Emergency Load Reduction

Program in SDG&E’s service territory pays business customers $2 per kilowattho­ur if they are able to export power to the grid or reduce their usage during energy emergencie­s.

Dischargin­g electricit­y from the buses, therefore, can put some money into the school district’s pocket.

Buxbaum said it’s too early to tell how much revenue that would translate to, but the money will be shared with Nuvve in an arrangemen­t that will see the tech company take care of maintainin­g the charging stations for eight years.

“Any savings we have goes back to the classrooms,” Buxbaum said.

The technology is coming soon to the Ramona Unified School District, where eight bidirectio­nal charging stations have been installed, and to the San Diego Unified School District, where at least three stations are poised to go online.

Nuvve’s Poilasne said school buses are excellent candidates to deploy V2G technology. Their large batteries enable them to send energy to the grid when needed but the buses will still have enough stored power to keep operating when the school district needs them.

“We need to make sure we are keeping the right ranges so that [we] are not deteriorat­ing the battery of the vehicle,” Poilasne said.

The program at Cajon Valley was approved along with SDG&E’s Power Your Drive for Fleets program that builds charging stations and other infrastruc­ture to take medium- and heavy-duty trucks that are powered by gasoline or diesel and replace them with electric vehicles.

The programs, approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, are funded by the rates paid by SDG&E customers. The utility estimates the Cajon Valley program to be about $1 million.

SDG&E’s Romero said sending electricit­y to the grid via V2G technology “defers additional capacity investment­s and that ultimately benefits everybody.”

California policymake­rs have set a goal to derive 100% of the state’s electricit­y from carbon-free sources by 2045, if not sooner, and Gov. Gavin Newsom two years ago issued an executive order banning the sale of new gasolinepo­wered passenger cars by 2035.

As for the school buses themselves, it appears the Cajon Valley Union School District got a bargain.

All-electric school buses typically list for nearly $400,000, but Buxbaum estimated various state and federal grants absorbed 95% of the costs to acquire the district’s fleet of eight.

The U.S. Environmen­tal Protection Agency and the California Energy Commission combined to pay nearly all of the costs of five buses. Two others were largely covered by a grant from the California Air Resources Board, and the energy commission picked up the tab for the eighth bus.

“With school district budgets being tight, we rely heavily on those grants to make this project work,” Buxbaum said.

 ?? Pat Hartley San Diego Union-Tribune ?? CAJON VALLEY Union School District uses electric buses that can send energy back to the power grid.
Pat Hartley San Diego Union-Tribune CAJON VALLEY Union School District uses electric buses that can send energy back to the power grid.

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