EUSD set to save on energy costs
By Paul Myers
exeter – Summer is hitting full force this year with weeks of 100-plus-degree heat. For those who have to take time outside to do their job, the weather is near unbearable. But the Exeter Unified School District (EUSD) will soon cash in on future woeful summer days while protecting their employees and their buses.
At last month’s EUSD board meeting on Wednesday, June 14, the seven member governing board moved forward on a resolution installing a solar paneled bus barn and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling station where buses and other vehicles in the fleet currently park on 1105 E. Rocky Hill Drive. According to the resolution the cost of project will be less than the savings realized from the increased energy efficiency.
Exeter Unified superintendent Tim Hire said that the upfront cost of construction and installation will be approximately $3 million with $500,000 granted from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and $2.5 million coming from Measure K passed last November. Hire said that energy from the solar panels is projected to nearly zero out the meter that runs Kaweah High School and the transportation facility.
“That’s where you generate the savings. The hope is that these savings pay off the project,” Hire added.
The first six years of solar panel generated energy is expected to save the district $450,000 with $25,000 coming from the first year. Hire did add that savings on CNG is a tougher to quantify than energy savings, because of the fluctuations in cost. But he did note that having an onsite CNG station will make better use of staff time.
As of now the District has five CNG powered buses but they do not have a CNG filling station. In order to fill the buses for a full day, transportation staff drives the bus to the Exeter City Yard or the Visalia Unified School District’s transportation facility to use their filling stations. And according to Hire it takes a significant amount of time to fill the tank which is why they fill them over night. As well, when a driver drives the bus to the city yard or the VUSD transportation facility there is a second driver there to drive them back.
“Every time we have to fill a bus there is a potential for 2 hours of labor…and if you’re filling five buses every day those dollars add up pretty quickly,” Hire said.
The projected onsite CNG station will have more hoses than CNG buses, with eight hookups. That way there is a room for expansion in the fleet which the District has benefited from with electric vehicles in the past with San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) grants that have yielded hybrid and electric Ford Fusions, carts and Gators.
Hire said that the District has qualified and received SJVAPCD grants for last three years and was recently told that they qualify to apply for them again.
The superintendent added that having the bus barn with solar panels does more than just save on energy costs and staff time, but it expands that life time of the buses while also shielding employees from the elements.
“We’re providing a quality of life for our staff…now they can do [the regular parts of their job] without having to stand in the rain [or sun] to do it,” Hire said.