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Dominion Energy Plans Using School Buses as Grid Flexibility Asset

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  • Nov 16, 2020

In an intriguing experiment, utility and renewable energy producer Dominion Energy is planning to use electric school buses as battery storage. The corporation is moving forward with the nation's largest electric school bus deployment. Beginning this fall, the first of 50 electric buses will safely carry Virginia students while also reducing emissions. The idea is that when not carrying students, their batteries will store electricity, for use when needed by the grid.

The concept is that after the school journey the buses will return to their depots where they will be hooked up to bidirectional Vehicle2Grid (V2G) chargers together with a digital distributed energy-management system. This “smart” system charges the electric batteries quickly and then transfers the rest to the grid. Although this “smart grid”, called APEX - developed by a California-based technology company called Proterra - is in its early stages, the intention is that it will eventually be expanded to manage all distributed assets, including wind and solar power technology. Dominion is also adding electric charging points to facilitate the easier adoption of EVs. As well as debuting an electric, self-driving shuttle that will make a loop between the Dunn Loring Metro Station and Mosaic District in Fairfax, Va.

"We believe electrification isn't just the future of transportation. We're powering it in Virginia right now," said Ed Baine, senior vice-president of Power Delivery at Dominion Energy. "Soon, parents in Fairfax will be able to send their children to school on an electric school bus, commute to the metro station on Virginia's first autonomous electric shuttle and charge their electric vehicle while running errands around town."

The expectation is that the battery storage of the buses (as well as more private EVs) will mitigate the need to build additional forms of capacity for the existing grid and facilitate more renewable energy integration. Dominion modeling shows offshore wind producing clean energy primarily in the afternoon or at night when the bus batteries are being charged. This should stabilize the distribution grid in terms of voltage levels, among other things. Dominion’s experiment is planning more than 1,500 buses by 2025, which theoretically should provide the storage and supply excess capacity to power up to 15,000 homes.

It will be interesting to see the results of this bold experiment – if it works well then other states could well adopt similar systems.

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