EUSD ready to capture solar savings, builds compressed natural gas fill station


Exeter Unified is set to spend $2.2 million on Measure K project aimed at renovating District’s transportation yard

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

EXETER – Resident’s were asked to fund another bond through their property taxes last November, and they did so willingly. In 2017 they are already starting to see what their money is buying them. For example, this year the community saw the opening of a long overdue revamped football stadium. In all, the district replaced the all-weather track, installed turf and then replaced the old stadium lights with state of the art spiral lighting that illuminates the entire field.

Now they are tackling the transportation yard. As a part of Measure K’s approved list of projects the District is moving forward with constructing a bus barn, installing CNG filling stations and installing solar panels. At their latest Board meeting last Wednesday, EUSD decided to contract with Oral E. Mitchell Construction.

Overall the project is anticipated to cost $2.7 million, but because of a $500,000 grant from the California Energy Commission, the District will be allocating $2.2 million from the Measure K bond. EUSD superintendent Tim Hire said that construction will start as early as this Thursday and could last for two months provided good weather. However installing the CNG filling station and solar panels could be a wait of several months.

Hire said in an interview with the Sun-Gazette in June 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 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 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 told that they qualify to apply for them again.

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