Area school districts pursuing grant for electric buses

While most of the school districts in the area are going green by going off the grid and connecting to solar power, one district is taking extra strives to provide services that keep the air clean.

District 210 in Williamsfield is one of seven school districts that are part of the Central Illinois Bus-to-Grid Initiative. The initiative is seeking grant money from a settlement between the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Edwards power plant, totaling $8.6 million, to purchase electric buses and get off of buses that use diesel fuel.

Around 1.7 million of the total settlement is going towards job training or retraining of employees at the plant when it closes in 2022 and around 6.9 million is going towards environmental or public health projects.

District 210 Superintendent, Tim Farquer, tells WGIL that three prongs of the initiative are to clean the air the kids breath, reduce the contributions to climate change, and to provide an energy storage solution for green energy suppliers.

“So as coal fire power plants, like Edwards, the Havana plant, Canton plan, Hennepin plant, those plants all start to close and renewable energy becomes more and more abundant in our area and around Illinois, school buses can serve as a real viable green energy storage solution.”

These buses are much more expensive than diesel buses. Superintendent Farquer says that the ballpark costs for a diesel bus are between $85,000 and $100,000. Whereas an electric bus might be almost four times that.

“An electric school bus, right now, costs about $385,000 for a bus. And this includes a fast charger. A DC Fast Charger is a lot more expensive than a slower charging system. And in a lot of places that $385,000 number includes about $10,000 to upgrade infrastructure in order to install a charger in the locations where people currently store their buses.”

Farquer says that the district currently runs six bus routes and, should the district be rewarded with the funds to purchase an electric bus, this bus would serve one of these routes as well as be used for taking kids to and from activities.

Other districts that are part of the initiative are the Farmington, Elmwood, Dunlap, Hollis, North Pekin, and Marquette Heights school districts as well as one municipality — the City of Pekin.

He said he hopes the district will hear sooner rather than later about the grant.

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