Building Energy Resilient Schools: The Bidirectional Opportunity

Thanks to increased funding, school districts nationwide are embarking on a major endeavor: school bus fleet electrification. The benefits offered by electric school bus (ESB) fleets are well-documented, from improving air quality and contributing to the fight against climate change to saving school districts money.
But did you know that for many school districts, an opportunity extends beyond just clean transportation? With bidirectional charging infrastructure, ESB fleets become multi-use assets that can provide even more daily services, such as powering a community resilience hub during grid outages or participating in energy markets for additional financial incentives.
Bidirectional charging, also known as vehicle-to-building (V2B), vehicle-to-grid (V2G), or vehicle-to-everything (V2X) charging, allows ESBs to receive energy and distribute it to buildings, the grid, or other energy consumers, respectively.

Community Resilience

Extreme weather conditions continue to hammer the country’s outdated grid system, causing extended power outages. School districts equipped with ESB and V2G charging can greatly enhance community resilience by using the buses as mobile energy storage units to power their buildings or other critical facilities in need, like emergency shelters or medical centers.

Financial Benefits

Since ESBs are essentially big batteries, they also work perfectly as energy storage devices. Optimized V2G charging infrastructure enables schools to leverage this feature to charge fleets during off-peak hours when energy costs are lower, store the energy until peak-demand periods, and then sell excess power back to the grid when prices go up.
Yet, despite the apparent value that bidirectional charging infrastructure offers school districts, deployment is limited. A large part of this is due to the lack of technical expertise available to many school districts to understand and address the technical barriers to deployment.
Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll review some of the hurdles to integrating bidirectional EV charging and provide an overview of how Heila’s easy-to-use platform supports school districts in overcoming these challenges and unlocking the full potential of ESB fleets and bidirectional EV charging.

Challenges to Integrating Bidirectional EV Chargers for Electric School Buses


  1. Interoperability Challenges: The non-standardized landscape of electric vehicles, bidirectional chargers, inverters, cables, and other hardware components, many of which don’t work together, makes it difficult for school districts to make informed decisions. Additionally, when it comes to adding assets to a system, like solar PV modules, interoperability can be a problem.

  3. Interconnection Challenges: Connecting bidirectional chargers to the electrical grid requires careful planning and coordination with the local utility. Factors like grid capacity, transformer sizing, and interconnection requirements vary significantly by location. School districts must work closely with their utility provider to ensure the grid infrastructure can handle the additional load and two-way power flow.

  5. Communication and Control Challenges: Integrating ESBs with the grid and other energy systems requires advanced communication and control capabilities. Although the recent amendment to ISO 15118-20 represents a crucial development in standardizing the bidirectional communication between EV chargers and vehicles, it is extremely new, and many school districts remain unfamiliar with this important aspect.

  7. Scalability Challenges: Due to bidirectional charging technology’s novel nature, this sector is evolving rapidly, with innovations and technologies regularly hitting the market. This evolution means any hardware or software acquired may become outdated quickly. Without a future-proofed solution, school districts must undergo costly re-engineering to keep up with growing energy demands or changing consumption patterns.


How to Solve These Challenges with a Decentralized Control and Optimization Platform

A decentralized control and optimization platform, like the Heila EDGE®, overcomes the challenges of a bidirectional charging system for ESBs. The EDGE can manage the technical complexities of energy flows, integrate different assets seamlessly, and leverage the full potential of bidirectional charging infrastructure.

  1. Interoperability and Interconnection: A decentralized control and optimization platform can utilize sophisticated software and algorithms to coordinate the interactions between ESBs, the grid, and other energy systems, enabling widespread component interoperability and interconnection.

  3. Energy Optimization: Through built-in intelligence and automation, platforms like Heila’s EDGE can drive energy savings by utilizing available energy most efficiently and identifying opportunities to decrease energy use.

  5. Flexibility and Scalability: A decentralized system makes expanding easier without costly re-engineering when adding new assets, like ESBs or solar PV installations. Unlike centralized systems that could become a single point of failure, a decentralized approach distributes the decision-making and control across multiple nodes, enhancing the system’s overall resilience.


Making Electrification Easy

Heila is not just a solutions provider but also a project integrator. From stakeholder coordination to permit acquisition and long-term operations and maintenance (O&M), we simplify and streamline the electrification process for school districts. If your school district is considering electrification or even bidirectional charging, feel free to reach out with any questions – we’d be happy to help!