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California District’s Sustainability Plan Positively Impacts the Entire Community

For Modesto City Schools in California, the movement has officially begun on their journey to being leaders in sustainability. As the 25th largest school district in the state, with approximately 30,000 students across 34 schools, the district is in the process of implementing an ambitious slate of upgrades to improve the health, environment and learning experience of its students, staff and community. 

The movement begins with EV and solar

Modesto district leaders were committed to finding innovative strategies to reduce environmental pollutants, conserve energy, shift from reliance on diesel fuel, and improve educational opportunities. The district selected Schneider Electric as their energy and sustainability partner to design a comprehensive approach to undertake the necessary improvements.

Beginning in 2022, the district started construction on several key infrastructure changes:

  • Replacing diesel buses with 30 new electric school buses, the single largest order of Blue Bird electric school buses in the United States at the time.
  • Installing comprehensive charging infrastructure to support the EV bus fleet, including solar carports to facilitate fast charging.
  • Adding approximately 800kWp of solar parking canopies at seven district high schools, which will offset over 70% of electrical needs at each school
  • Building six state-of-the-art Sustainable Outdoor Learning Environments (SOLEs.) The SOLEs are powered by rooftop solar arrays, showing renewable energy in action for students.

“Our students will be among the first in the nation to be transported to school using clean energy vehicles, where they’ll learn in a technologically advanced outdoor learning environment powered by the sun,” said Tim Zearley, Associate Superintendent, Business Services for Modesto City Schools. “We’re thrilled to see our vision of a sustainable future come to fruition for the longevity and health of our community.”

Financial, environmental, and community benefits

Modesto City Schools utilized California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) to finance a portion of the overall cost of the bus purchase. In addition to HVIP, the district financed its sustainability upgrades by leveraging energy and operational savings from the project via an Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) with Schneider Electric, as well as federal stimulus funds and local grants. The bus fleet alone will save $250,000+ in fuel costs and overall maintenance, creating room in the budget for more enriching student activities. 

While these sustainability enhancements directly benefit students, they also benefit the wider community by creating better air quality and more resilient, sustainable gathering places that everyone can rely on. The project will save nearly 2 million kWh in energy consumption while removing 402 tons of carbon emissions, an impact akin to removing 86 cars from the road or planting 16,080 trees. It also cuts air pollution caused by diesel exhaust, creating a much healthier environment for children’s developing lungs. These are benefits that extend well beyond the campuses’ limits, ushering in a more sustainable future for every Modesto, CA resident.

Tapping innovative funding to accelerate sustainability goals

Schools that are ready for a sustainable transition like Modesto’s have a huge opportunity to fund the switch now. There are many incentive programs like California’s HVIP available from state governments around the country. On the federal level, the EPA’s Clean Bus Program is administering $5 billion dollars in competitive grants to districts who make the switch to EV buses until 2026. The Inflation Reduction Act also created new tax incentives for schools who invest into clean energy projects like onsite solar arrays.

Beyond the scope of grants and incentives, Modesto City Schools’ comprehensive approach to sustainability improvements and fleet electrification allowed them to double down on upgrades through an ESPC. Other school districts can also follow this model to make improvements by reducing energy and operational costs district-wide and reinvesting those savings to improve the entire student experience in school facilities.

To hear more stories from school districts working with Schneider Electric to achieve their goals, visit