Salt Lake City School District’s Transition to Clean Fuel
The Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD) unveiled 500 solar panels situated on top of canopies at a bus barn located on the Westside of Salt Lake City. School officials say the solar panels will produce enough energy to power 45 percent of the facility including block heaters. The 500 solar panels cost the district upwards of $400,000 paid for in part by a $180,000 grant from Blue Ski Solar Energy. The district says it plans to install 500 more solar panels on a west facing canopy, doing so will help the district run this bus facility on 95 percent solar energy.
The district says this specific area was chosen because environmental studies show Salt Lake’s west side has some of the highest levels of pollution in the state, and the bus routes in this area will allow the district to utilize the buses to their full potential. The electric school buses do cost more than traditional buses, but the higher purchase price will be offset by savings in fuel and maintenance costs. The real benefit is the environmental impact. The electric school buses are zero-emissions vehicles and are extremely quiet. Each panel has a 25 year life expectancy and supports the district’s commitment to alternative fuels, clean transportation and sustainable energy.
Every day, Utah’s fleet of 2,987 school buses provided transportation to 195,000 children. Out of this amount, which includes 41 school districts and charter schools, the vast majority run on diesel. To reduce emissions and adopt alternative sources of fuels, school districts are integrating compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that emit 40 to 86% less particulate matter into the air than diesel buses.
Earlier this year, Salt Lake City School District introduced four Micro Bird electric school buses into its fleet. These electric buses replaced some of the district’s aging diesel buses. The district says the electric school buses, which are reportedly the first for the district and the state, were partially funded through the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ’s) Volkswagen settlement program and Utah Clean Diesel Program (UCDP).
“The District has been looking into all alternative-fuel school buses for several years, but when we were made aware of the grants available through DEQ, it gave us a shot of motivation to move forward with the electric buses,” Fleet Manager Ken Martinez said.
Currently, SLCSD has a total of 100 buses in their fleet and intends to convert 20% to 25% of those buses to electric, with an eventual goal of converting 70% to 75% of its fleet to electric, according to the DEQ. The agency said that the district is also updating its bus depot to accommodate charging stations for the new electric buses. The charging stations will reportedly be housed under canopies equipped with solar panels that may eventually be used to provide part of the power to the buses
SLCSD took advantage of grant money from the The Department of Air Quality’s Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust. The state of Utah is a beneficiary of $35 million. SLCSD received two rounds of funding from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality totaling more than $1.5 million which helped the district retire some of its older diesel-powered buses. The district says these grant money helped them purchase the new EV fleet.
There are other federal incentives people can take advantage of when working to transition from a gas vehicle to an electrical vehicle. All-electric and plug-in hybrid cars purchased new or after 2010 may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit amount will vary based on the capacity of the battery used to power the vehicle. State and/or local incentives may also apply. Small neighborhood electric vehicles do not qualify for this credit, but they may qualify for another credit.
- Qualified Heavy-Duty Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Tax Credit
- Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Rebate
- Alternative Fuel Vehicle Conversion Grants for Businesses
- Propane and Electricity Tax Exemptions
- Hydrogen Fuel Production Incentives
- Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) Weight Exemption
- Alternative Fuel Vehicle Decal and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lane Exemption
- Electric Vehicle Emissions Inspections Exemption
- Non-Residential Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Rebate – Rocky Mountain Power
- Residential Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Rebate – Rocky Mountain Power
- Residential Electric Vehicle Time of Use (TOU) Rate Pilot – Rocky Mountain Power