Waynesboro superintendent says they're excited to receive electric school buses

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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) — Electric school buses will soon be hitting the roads in Virginia, and Waynesboro will be among the first places it happens.

Snapshot from video provided by Dominion Energy Services

According to Dominion Energy, Phase 1 of their electric school bus deployment will bring 50 buses to 16 localities across their Virginia service area by the end of 2020.

Last month, the utility selected Thomas Built Buses as their vendor for the 50 buses.

Now, they're preparing for the first phase of a larger initiative to replace all diesel-powered buses with electric buses.

Dominion says the electric school buses will serve as a grid resource by creating additional energy storage technology to support the company's integration of distributed renewables, like solar and wind. The "vehicle-to-grid" technology leverages the bus batteries to store and inject energy onto the grid during periods of high demand when the buses are not needed for transport.

Dr. Jeffrey Cassell, superintendent of Waynesboro Public Schools, said they're excited to be getting two of the buses. He said they were already planning to purchase buses, and the grant from Dominion will bring the cost of the electric buses down to the cost of a diesel bus.

"We're going to be one of the first school divisions in the Shenandoah Valley to have the electric buses, and to get to try those and see if they meet our needs as well as they think," said Cassell.

Electric buses also provide environmental and health benefits, according to Dominion, including reduced emissions, cleaner air for students and bus drivers, and cost savings for school districts through reduced operation and maintenance costs.

"We are excited to move forward with our commitment to bringing the benefits of electric school buses to the customers and communities we serve," said Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell, II. "This is an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children's health, make the electric grid stronger, and free up money for our schools."

Dr. Cassell said diesel buses get about five miles per gallon on average. With the cost of diesel over three dollars a gallon, he said they're spending between $30-$40 a day per bus.

"Over the course of the year, that's a significant savings, and over the life of a bus, 15 or 20 years, its a really significant saving," Cassell said.

The environmental and cost savings aren't the only benefits. Dr. Cassell said they're looking forward to including the buses in their curriculum. The school system has also installed solar panels, so the buses will be another real-world example for students.

"We're learning a lot about solar panels and involving their students, and so we'll be able to have a number of educational opportunities about electric powered vehicles using the electric school buses," Dr. Cassell said.

The initial deployment of electric buses is designed to bring at least a few to all of Dominion's operating regions. They say localities were selected based on the benefit the batteries would bring to the electric grid.

Waynesboro will get two buses as part of the program, as will Louisa.

All school divisions selected for Phase 1 include:

Alexandria
Arlington
Charles City
Chesapeake
Chesterfield
Fairfax
Hampton
Louisa
Middlesex
Norfolk
Pittsylvania
Powhatan
Prince William
Richmond City
Virginia Beach
Waynesboro

Phase 2 of the project, if approved by Virginia, would expand the program to bring at least 1,000 additional electric school buses online by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the buses' batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes, Dominion says. Phase three would set the goal to have 50 percent of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy's footprint be electric by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.