West Grand wins grant to pioneer electric school buses for mountain districts | SkyHiNews.com

West Grand wins grant to pioneer electric school buses for mountain districts

A demo Proterra electric bus before its first Yellow Route of the Free Ride bus system on March 22, 2018, in Breckenridge. East Grand and West Grand school districts have accepted a proposal from Mountain Parks Electric that could provide the districts their first electric buses.
Summit Daily file photo

West Grand School District will have one of the first electric school buses in the state and it’s getting it free of charge.

The district received a $273,000 grant from Colorado’s Regional Air Quality Counsel. The grant makes up part of the difference in cost between diesel and electric buses, including the cost of the charging system. Middle Parks Electric and its power provider, Tri-State G&T, will be taking care of the remaining costs using unclaimed monies held by the electric co-op.

“We are thrilled to see the school district go electric,” Mountain Parks Electric general manager Mark Johnston said in a news release. “Mountain Parks Electric’s power supply is becoming increasingly renewable. And one of the best ways to put that renewable energy to work is to replace fossil fuels with electric alternatives, like this school bus.”

Middle Parks Electric approached both Grand County school districts with a proposal that would make the buses free to the districts using the grant and these donations. While East Grand also applied for the grant, the district was denied.

In East Grand’s application, to address concerns about the extreme weather the electric bus would face, the district put a stipulation that the bus would not run in certain conditions until it was tested.

“They said if you’re not going run the bus on a daily route, every day, then you’re not going to get the grant,” East Grand Superintendent Frank Reeves said of the decision.

West Grand also addressed these concerns, but it seems the daily use would be less of an issue.

“We talked about how we would be conducting some tests this school year with portable temperature censors on our buses and questioning students about extremely cold temperatures,” West Grand Superintendent Darrin Peppard said.

West Grand was one of four school districts to receive a grant for an electric school bus. The district is getting a 78 passenger Bluebird All American with a range of 120 miles.

The bus will ideally arrive in August and begin transporting students on daily routes for the school year soon after.

“There was excitement having this bus in West Grand in particular,” Peppard said. “They can have us as an exemplar site in the state as a high altitude, low temperature climate.”

Mountain Parks Electric and Tri-State G&T will take care of the infrastructure work, power requirements and installation of the charging unit.

East Grand can apply for the grant again, which the district may feel more comfortable about after seeing it at work on the other side of the county.

“We’ll let West Grand test it,” Reeves said.

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