more districts to add electric buses to their fleets. This is on top of our pilot locations in California, Minnesota and Chicago. We are working with our California customers now on their electrification process, and we are hopeful that a few other states and provinces will start the electrification process soon. Izzi: An important tool that helps us understand the

order of electrification is the feasibility study. This helps sort out when and where the first electric buses are added. Some locations will be ready to support electrification efforts earlier than others, based on key power supply considerations. Utility system upgrades can take longer than vehicle delivery, so it’s important to start this planning as early as possible in the electrification process.

STN: Do any of your projects include vehicle-to-grid

capabilities? Miller: Yes. We are actively pursuing a large V2G

project in California. For all our opportunities, we work with NextEra Energy Resources to map out the location and work with the local utilities to see if V2G will work for each location and if it makes sense now, based on the number of electric buses and the charging systems that they purchase and install. Izzi: We will always evaluate the vehicle-to-grid

opportunity and it will certainly be a part of some deployments, but not all. What’s key is that NextEra Energy Resources has the energy market and demand response expertise to realistically evaluate potential vehicle-to-grid revenues.

STN: What are the obstacles remaining before electric school buses can reliably charge back to the grid and become mobile power plants? Izzi: The predictable nature of school buses and their

long dwell times does make vehicle-to-grid revenues viable. However, energy markets are very diverse, and the value of vehicle-to-grid capabilities varies by location. It also costs more to deploy bidirectional chargers, which is another consideration. We work with customers to weigh all these factors and any additional on-site resiliency benefits.

STN: How is First Student and NextEra identifying its school bus manufacturer(s) and electric integrator(s)? Miller: We continue to assess our supply chain

strategy in line with OEM and overall market conditions to best meet the needs of our customers. We have run pilots with the primary OEMs in different locations across North America. In our pilots, we assess how local factors such as geography, climate and terrain affect range, charge time, efficiency, etc. When we

30 School Transportation News • JUNE 2021

partner with districts to electrify school buses, we assess their local factors to make a recommendation on bus manufacturer based on our pilot experience. Izzi: NextEra Energy Resources has years of experience

operating stationary storage in the field. We also have a battery lab that’s constantly evaluating things like battery degradation. Finally, the growth of our stationary storage business enables us to work collaboratively with battery vendors and get the best value. This year alone, we’ll deploy more than $1 billion in capital on stationary batteries. We’ll be bringing this expertise to our work with First Student to inform how we purchase EVs and optimize battery life.

STN: How can this partnership help to bring down the

cost of electric buses compared to diesel buses? Miller: By ordering large numbers of buses, we bring our scale to the OEMs, which will help drive down the per bus cost of manufacturing, especially the cost of the batteries and the powertrain. We are also seeking out additional partnerships to further drive down the cost throughout the supply chain. And as mentioned earlier, we will track down all funding opportunities for our customers that will help offset costs. Izzi: Scale also applies to energy infrastructure.

Because we are planning for electrification across First Student’s large fleet, this can help drive down both building and operating costs. It’s easier to buy energy and participate in grid services markets when you have a larger, more diverse portfolio of sites.

STN: What is the importance of managed charging? Izzi: Managed charging means you are optimizing

when and how fast you charge vehicles to ensure you aren’t setting a new demand peak or charging at the highest priced hours. We have been doing this for more than five years in the field through our behind-the- meter battery storage facilities. Because we worked in so many locations with so many utilities, we’ve seen it all—whether you’re a school district in a rural electric co- op or are served by a large utility like SoCal Edison. We understand how to manage charging costs.

STN:What role do you see solar power playing in

electric school bus infrastructure? Izzi: Many of the fleet managers we speak to would

like their fleets to be powered by renewables like solar. Charging the vehicles from on-site solar can also provide resiliency from grid outages. Schools that haven’t yet installed on-site solar should consider doing so when you’re installing on-site infrastructure. In places where on-site solar is not practical, there are other options available like community solar. ●

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