Massachusetts school bus shaves peak demand in first V2G program for district

electric school bus
The Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school bus equipped with a Proterra Powered battery system on the streets of Beverly, MASS. Credit: Highland.

Highland Electric Fleets announced this week what it called a “historic breakthrough for local clean energy” in which an electric school bus in Beverly, Massachusetts successfully delivered power back to the electricity grid for more than 50 hours over the course of the summer.

This is the first time an electric school bus has been leveraged as an energy resource by the regional utility National Grid in New England and among the first instances in the United States that an electric school bus has supported the electric grid in this way, said Highland in a press release.

The bus discharged three MWh of electricity to curb peak demand 30 times this summer, according to Highland, which provides the bus, chargers, and all electricity to Beverly Public Schools under a mileage-based subscription. The company worked with National Grid to ensure that the site was prepared for energy discharge and coordinated participation in the utility’s Connected Solutions Daily Dispatch program. Under this program, National Grid used the energy stored in the electric school bus battery on 30 different occasions over the summer to lower demand on the grid during times of peak demand.

Project partners include utility National Grid, and Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school bus equipped with a Proterra Powered battery system. Proterra’s bidirectional charging system managed the charging and discharging of the electric school bus back into the grid.

“By delivering stored clean energy back to the grid when it’s needed most, electric school buses can help create a more resilient local power system and reduce the dependence on expensive fossil fuel power plants,” said Gareth Joyce, President of Proterra. “Switching to zero-emission, electric school buses signals a transformational shift towards clean transportation and clean energy to help protect the health of our children and the communities they live in.”

By participating in the program, the school bus helped reduce local emissions and decreased the need to fire up fossil fuel peaker plants. National Grid compensates participants in this program for their energy services, incentivizing the use of distributed energy resources to strengthen the local grid.

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Participation in National Grid’s program marks an important step in closing the up-front cost gap between traditional diesel school buses and electric school buses, as revenue from vehicle-to-grid (V2G) programs helps to improve the economics of electric school bus ownership.

The average school bus transports students for approximately six hours a day, 200 days annually, and are otherwise parked or idled when not in operation. This is particularly true during summer months, when demand for electricity is often at its highest and clean energy stored in idled electric school buses can provide an energy resource to the grid.

“We are proud to have added several customers and vendors to our programs this year that are using vehicle-to-grid technology. This underlines the strength of the technology-neutral approach of the Connected Solutions Daily Dispatch program. Through this single program we have enrolled batteries, fuel cells, thermal storage, V2G, and many other technologies without needing to confuse customers and vendors with separate programs and incentives for each technology,” said John Isberg, Vice President of Customer Sales and Solutions at National Grid.

In Beverly, Highland provided a turnkey, fixed-price subscription that eliminated upfront cost, risk, and complexity of managing the electric school bus, and allowed Beverley to benefit from the V2G services provided by the bus through a lower subscription price. This type of public-private partnership allows school districts to capture the value of a V2G program and fully unleash the potential of electric school buses.

“Beverly is proud to lead in electrifying our school bus fleet and to be at the forefront nationally, to successfully discharge battery stored electricity back to the grid. We look forward to taking full advantage of the economic, environmental and operational benefits that V2G technology offers. We truly appreciate our valuable partners – Highland Electric Fleets, National Grid and Proterra – whose collaboration has made this project a huge success,” said Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill.

The Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley has 226 kWh of total energy capacity from Proterra’s battery technology — the highest standard battery capacity in the industry according to the company — and a Proterra electric drivetrain to offer up to 135 miles of drive range for school bus fleets.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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