For Modesto City Schools, California, the movement has officially begun on their journey to being leaders in sustainability. As the 25th largest school district in the state, with approximately 30,000 students across 34 schools, the district will be implementing an ambitious program to improve the health, environment and learning experience of its students, staff and community. District leaders were committed to finding innovative strategies to reduce environmental pollutants, conserve energy, shift from reliance on diesel fuel, and improve educational opportunities.
After prioritizing their objectives, they selected Schneider Electric as their partner for a larger energy infrastructure project. Schneider Electric had a proven track record with electrified transit centers and had recently unveiled its latest STEAM innovation, a Sustainable Outdoor Learning Environment (SOLE). District leaders knew the SOLE would be a key component to advancing STEAM curriculum.
The comprehensive project includes:
- Purchase of 30 new electric buses
- Installation of ~800 kWp of solar canopies
- Comprehensive charging infrastructure, including 30 EV charging stations
- Six state-of-the-art Sustainable Outdoor Learning Environments (SOLEs)
- Enhanced STEAM learning programs
Tapping innovative funding to accelerate sustainability goals
The electric bus purchase is the single largest order of Blue Bird EV buses in the nation and will replace approximately half of the district’s current diesel-run fleet with zero-emission vehicles. The district utilized California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) to finance a portion of the overall cost of the bus purchase.
In addition to HVIP, the district is financing its larger sustainability program by leveraging energy and operational savings from the project, as well as federal stimulus funds and local grants. The charging infrastructure and solar canopies at the bus yard will be installed by the end of summer, while construction of the six SOLEs will occur on campuses during the school year and solar carports will be added to Davis High School next summer. The full project will be completed at an accelerated pace to generate environmental and financial benefits as soon as possible.
The overall project will save 1,898,642 kWh in energy consumption and remove 402 tons of carbon emissions. The impact is equivalent to removing 86 cars from the road or planting 16,080 trees. The bus fleet alone will save $250,000+ in fuel costs and overall maintenance. Each bus can run up to 120 miles on a single charge.
“Our students will be among the first in the nation to be transported to school using clean energy vehicles, where they’ll learn in a technologically advanced outdoor learning environment powered by the sun,” said Tim Zearley, Associate Superintendent, Business Services for Modesto City Schools. “We’re thrilled to see our vision of a sustainable future come to fruition for the longevity and health of our community.”
Educating the STEAM leaders of tomorrow
The SOLEs will host classes and programs to give students hands-on STEAM education, as well as provide an outdoor space for collaboration and events. Modesto City Schools’ focus on educating the STEAM leaders of tomorrow makes the new sustainability education an energizing part of the curriculum with hands-on, real-world experiences that instill a deeper understanding of engineering, energy, construction and resource management.
Each unit will have approximately 40 kWp of solar arrays generating energy for the unit, as well as power outlets, flooring, an ADA-accessible path, fans and mobile furniture and technology.
The movement has just begun on electric vehicles
Making the switch to electric school buses has a tangible impact on environmental goals. Districts will be able to provide students and families with the same school bus experience, while dramatically reducing the amount of fossil fuels consumed and slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
However, purchasing electric buses is only a small part of these projects. Districts must also prepare their electrical infrastructure for the increased load, choose and position a mix of charging stations and plan routes that optimize the buses’ driving ranges. Districts must also consider how to charge their clean vehicles, as most will want to incorporate onsite renewable energy, such as solar, combined with battery storage to minimize utility costs and to keep the fleet’s footprint low carbon from start to finish. An experienced infrastructure partner can help map out a plan for infrastructure and power sourcing, as well as optimize stimulus and incentives to make the project affordable.
“This is the most ambitious fleet electrification project we’ve seen, and largest financial commitment to clean energy vehicles, completed by a school district,” said Elliott Feldman, Program Manager at Schneider Electric. “We’re thrilled to be implementing the infrastructure that will make their new fleet operational, while also providing further sustainable upgrades that will serve the students of this community for decades to come.”
This project will lay the foundation for Modesto City Schools to progress on their mission to make a positive impact, and they look forward to the next phase in their sustainability journey with Schneider Electric.
School districts of all sizes across the country are optimizing local, state and federal capital, grants and stimulus to make long-term investments in their infrastructure. Learn more about how many districts are making the most of their stimulus dollars in our eBook, 5 Steps to Stretch Your Remaining Stimulus Dollars.