Virginia’s transportation sector accounts for over 40 percent of the state’s emissions and significantly contributes to air pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx), smog, and particulate matter. Policymakers can greatly reduce the state’s overall emissions and improve local air quality via the mass electrification of the transportation sector. Buses have recently gained traction as excellent contenders for electrification because they park in centralized locations, follow specified routes, and operate at predictable hours. With their large battery storage capacity, electric buses (when they are idle) can also be utilized as reliable battery storage resources to benefit the electric grid. This ability for bidirectional charging is known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology and has prompted the interest of utilities such as Dominion Energy.
Dominion Energy, Virginia’s leading energy provider, released its three-part electric school bus initiative last September. The initiative begins at the end of this year with a small pilot program and includes the goals of adding 1,000 buses by 2025 and replacing all old diesel school buses within Dominion’s service area by 2030. Dominion’s pilot program will supply 50 electric school buses to 16 communities throughout its service area by the end of 2020. Participating school districts pay $100,000 for each bus, about the price of a regular bus, while Dominion covers the difference and owns and manages the vehicle charging equipment. Prioritizing the energy storage capabilities of the buses, Dominion selected each school to maximize the value of the buses’ battery storage to the local grid. If scaled according to plan, 1,000 buses by 2025 would store enough energy to power 10,000 homes.
Since electricity is mostly consumed at the time it is produced, without battery storage, an oversupply of electricity means wasted energy. Dominion envisions its electric school bus initiative as a potential solution to its energy supply and grid management problem. Each electric school bus is equipped with bidirectional charging capabilities and can be charged within three to four hours. The buses would be charged overnight during off-peak times when electricity demand and prices are at their lowest. By substantially increasing the electric bus fleet, Dominion believes the additional storage capacity will reduce pressure for additional sources of power and will help the company use its renewable energy sources more efficiently. The company’s offshore wind turbines are usually more productive overnight when energy demand is lower, so their excess energy could be stored in the electric school bus batteries and used later when demand and prices are higher. Electric school bus fleets make the grid more efficient and stable, and they could be especially useful during the summer months when energy demand is at its highest and school buses are not in use.
In addition to helping Virginia pursue its clean energy goals, Dominion’s full-scale program would improve local air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dominion estimates that each electric bus reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 27 short tons per year because the grid electricity that powers each bus is much cleaner than burning diesel fuel. Also, with no air pollutants released, the air quality inside each electric school bus is six times better than the diesel alternative. Other benefits from the initiative include improved student safety due to installed seatbelts and the tens of thousands of dollars in fuel savings and lower maintenance costs that accrue over each electric vehicle’s lifetime.
Phase Two of Dominion’s electric bus plan was voted on by the Virginia legislature in March, but its supporting bills, SB 988, SB 1096, and HB 75, were all voted down. Provisions within these bills would have limited participation to schools within the company’s service area. Dominion would also have been permitted to encourage school participation via financial incentives and recover program costs through rate adjustments. Detractors of the bills believed they too strongly favored Dominion, raised customers’ bills, and unfairly limited program participation.
HB 1140, backed by the climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front, planned to expand upon Dominion’s plan and replace the entire diesel fleet by 2030. HB 1140 would have made an electric bus program accessible to all Virginia school districts, and the bill called for the creation of a new grant program that would have helped school districts pay the difference between electric and diesel buses. Priority status would have been given to school districts with higher rates of air pollution and asthma. However, due to funding concerns, HB 1140 was also rejected. Although no mass-scale electric bus bill was successful this year, new legislation will likely be pursued in the future.
With many Virginia schools now operating remotely, it remains to be seen how the current pandemic and economic downturn will impact the implementation of the pilot program. Dominion announced the recipient school districts in mid-January, but it is unclear which selected participants have moved forward with the pilot program as originally planned. The Powhatan County School Board recently voted against joining the program, admitting they were uncertain what the new school year will look like, and Loudoun County Public Schools, not originally selected, has joined the program and approved purchasing two electric school buses. If the other selected school districts participate, the pilot program may achieve Dominion’s aspirations, representing a positive step towards decarbonizing Virginia’s transportation sector.
Author: Hamilton Steimer
June 21st, 2020 by Cynthia Shahan, Clean Technica
Sunrun pulls in customers with a catchy truth about the unpredictability of life, and electricity. To be sure that your house stays alive with power, even if the grid goes down, Sunrun’s rechargeable solar battery systems are one solution. They can make sure your home’s power stays stable and reliable, which we mostly take for granted but can become a problem if you’re struck by a hurricane in Florida or wildfire-related outages in California.
More options are arriving as well. In some regions, your batteries can also help others keep their power on and the grid active. Sunrun and Southern California Edison are partnering and expect to create one of the country’s largest virtual power plants.
Edison International writes, “For the next year, up to 300 SCE and Sunrun Brightbox home energy system customers will be part of a network, or virtual power plant, that can be called on to send clean energy back to the grid.”
“California is leading the way to 100% clean energy for all. We’re excited to work with SCE to bring the benefits of Brightbox rechargeable solar batteries to more Californians through this innovative partnership,” said Lynn Jurich, Sunrun cofounder and CEO.
The new program should demonstrate the responsiveness of virtual power plants. Delivering energy to the grid in a decentralized energy actually helps with grid reliability and grid security. If this program delivers clean energy as hoped and projected, it is another step forward for many Californians. Stable, reliable, and consistent supply of energy is needed there. Clean energy can provide that and is critical to a hopeful future.
Image courtesy Edison International.
There are reportedly no concerns for the customer with this virtual power plant system, even when it comes to pulling energy from their batteries. The virtual power plant makes use of energy stored in the batteries for the grid as needed, but leaves plenty of reserve power in the battery for the customers’ use.
“Customers won’t notice any difference in how their system works and they will receive a $250 incentive at the end of the first year of operation.”
SCE will tap into the batteries up to 80 times throughout the year. Sometimes due to normal peak energy demands and sometimes due to extreme weather events putting a strain on the grid, for example.
“For California to meet its carbon neutrality goal by 2045, we estimate that 40 gigawatts of energy storage will need to be added to the grid, including 10 GW from hundreds of thousands of residential customers in the future. The clean energy from these home energy systems will benefit all of our customers.”
— Jill Anderson, SCE Senior Vice President
Fossil fuels need to be replaced. Solar energy and battery storage are breaking through to solve that problem. Innovative solutions like this virtual power plant pilot will soon be the norm, an expected and essential part of a resilient clean energy grid.
Edison International: “SCE’s Pathway 2045 outlines the need to integrate large amounts of utility scale and residential solar energy and energy storage, including 110 GW of solar and 40 GW of storage, into the grid to meet the state’s carbon neutrality goals.”
This is a way for more homeowners who are interested in realizing the benefits of clean energy and contributing to a brighter future to participate. Join if you are able to.