Planning commissioners OK school district electric bus plan

The Carson City School District transportation yard near Carson High School on March 30, 2023.

The Carson City School District transportation yard near Carson High School on March 30, 2023.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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The benefits and challenges of a zero-emission future came into focus Wednesday as Carson City planning commissioners weighed the school district’s plan to start using electric buses.

“As an EV enthusiast, I am very excited about this project,” said Planning Commissioner Sena Loyd.

Planning commissioners approved a special use permit for the installation of 14 EV charging stations at the Carson City School District’s 2.4-acre transportation yard near Carson High. The project will have two phases. The first phase, expected to begin this summer, includes four charging stations and associated electrical infrastructure. Phase two calls for 10 more charging stations.

The first phase of chargers will be used for four electric buses the district is receiving later this year. Grant funding from NV Energy and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection is covering the costs.

“The first four buses are funded by this grant they received; however, looking into the future, there will probably be an additional transition to more electric vehicles,” said Carson City Associate Planner Heather Manzo. “This application does include a request to convert 14 spaces within that (the transportation yard) to the EV charging stations for future buses that they may acquire.”

Mark Johnson, CCSD capital and special projects manager, described how grant opportunities in the future may grow the district’s EV fleet. He said the district sought permit approval for the long-term, being “preemptive with the hopes of us getting more.”

According to Johnson, it will take three hours to charge the battery pack for one of the new buses. Each bus will run at about 1.5 kilowatts per mile. A half-charge could power a 50-mile route, he said.

One reason CCSD might have to return to planning commissioners is if a generator is needed at the site in case the power goes out. Johnson pointed out that only the CCSD district office has a generator, not schools. When asked by planning commissioners what kind of generator would be used for the charging stations, Johnson said it would probably be diesel-powered.

Loyd argued using battery storage from a nearby solar array could eliminate the need for a generator. She also pointed to new technology that allows charged vehicles to feed power back into homes.

“It’s something you guys can look at, maybe as a generator per school,” she said. “You could use your bus as your generator.”

Loyd later added, “If Tesla is listening, the Carson City School District needs a Megapack installed at their location,” she said, referring to the company’s large energy storage device.

Despite challenges with the new technology, commissioners were excited about the project. The vote for approval was unanimous.

After public comment, Johnson emphasized the new chargers are for buses, not cars.

“Staff are not going to use these chargers,” he said. “These are for the buses and the buses only. You’re not pulling your Tesla in there.”

In other action:

• Planning commissioners unanimously approved a SUP requested by the school district for a 32-square-foot wall-mounted electronic display at Bordewich Bray Elementary School.

The sign will face West King Street.

• Planning commissioners approved a SUP request that would allow a childcare facility — up to 12 children — on property zoned single family 6,000 (minimum lot size in square feet) on Florentine Drive.

The vote was unanimous.

• Planning commissioners approved SUPs for seven existing billboards on Highway 50 East, West Bennett Avenue, South Carson Street and North Carson Street.

SUPs for billboards automatically expire after five years unless a new permit is granted. The approvals Wednesday came with some added conditions, including operators use lighting that minimizes light pollution. One billboard on South Carson Street that has no lights was conditioned to remain without lights.

Additionally, a previous billboard at a location on North Carson Street will be replaced with a smaller billboard with a digital face. Only static images will be allowed, per conditions of approval. For this item, Planning Commission Chair Teri Preston recused herself from the vote, citing her professional involvement in the sale of the subject parcel.

Commissioner Nathaniel Killgore voted against all the billboard SUPs, expressing aversion to billboards in general.


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