This is a somewhat tardy follow up to our October 9 post about Tok’s ‘first-in-state’ electric school bus. Reports are in and they are across-the-board rosy!
The state’s only electric-powered school bus has been in use since mid-October, and it was put to the test in November, when it transported students without any problem after the temperature had dropped to 35 below.
“Having the first electric bus in Alaska is really exciting, and it fits right in with what Tok and the Alaska Gateway School District have been doing with alternative energy,” MacManus said. “And, y’know, it’s the direction that the world needs to be moving in.”
But Blackard says officials with the Alaska Energy Authority initially were reluctant to go along with his proposal because they said he’d be recharging the bus with power from the local utility, which generates electricity with diesel-fired generators. “The concern was that I was going to be swapping one diesel-burner for another diesel-burner,” he said. “So, as part of the grant, they required me to do something to offset that part of it. So that’s where the solar came in.”
Blackard says his solar-powered battery charger worked pretty well last month, producing most of the power needed to recharge the bus’s batteries. But this month, as the days grew shorter and the sun was barely clearing the horizon, he relied increasingly on the local grid to recharge. The solution, Blackard says, is to set up a bank of batteries to store the solar energy collected during the day, then use it to recharge the bus’s batteries. He plans to invest in that system in the coming year.