TransAlta’s Coal Transition Board funds Washington State’s first electric school bus and solar project for Franklin Pierce School District

Grants will reduce energy and carbon emissions while putting dollars back into the school district

Centralia, (October 30, 2018) – The TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Grants Energy Technology Board (‘CCTGETB’) is pleased to announce it has approved grants to the Franklin Pierce School District (‘the District’) to reduce energy and carbon emissions – putting dollars back into the school district’s general funds. The District will be receiving two grants, one totaling $330,155 to purchase Washington State’s first electric school bus and another award in the amount of $65,858 to install a 20-kilowatt (kW) Washington-made solar electricity generation system at the Keithley Middle School.  These projects will provide renewable energy for the Franklin Pierce School District, reduce carbon emissions and provide an educational opportunity for students and educators, while investing in the District.

“Change happens over time, not overnight. The decision by the District to move their bus fleet from diesel to electric-powered and combine that effort with a solar project makes these grants very exciting for the members of the Board and makes an important move for the District towards renewable energy,” said Conrad Wieclaw, board member.

“The projects will save the school district costs, maintenance, carbon emissions and provide an educational energy dashboard for students and educators. Congratulations to the Franklin Pierce District for taking steps to make change happen.”

The Energy Technology Board was formed as a result of the 2011 agreement between TransAlta and the state of Washington. This agreement, allowed Centralia to plan to move away from coal-fired operations with one unit shutting down in December 2020 and the second unit in December 2025. TransAlta is investing $55 million into Lewis and South Thurston Counties and the state of Washington through the Coal Transition Boards.

“The TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Board’s investment in Franklin Pierce Schools represents and incredible opportunity for our district,” says Joel Zylstra, Franklin Pierce School District.

“This investment reflects our commitment to increasing efficiency, providing opportunities for students to link classroom learning with everyday activities, and our ongoing desire to be good stewards of our natural resources.”

The funds from CCTGETB will support the District in launching the state’s first full-size electric school bus, which will be a pilot in their goal to replace all school busses with electric busses. The funding will also assist with the cost of installing a level two charging station for the electric bus. The District is working with Blue Bird manufacturers to ensure the bus will meet all Washington State regulations and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction standards and anticipates delivery in early Spring of 2019.

In the meantime, the installation of a 20kW solar electric generation system at the Keithley Middle School will begin. This renewable energy project will support the District’s efforts to reduce energy consumption and will connect to an energy dashboard that will allow students to engage with the system, learn more about alternative energy and understand how the engineering behind the technology works.

The Franklin Pierce School District was established in 1949 and located in Pierce County. The District proudly serves 8,000 students from preschool to grade 12 in a variety of settings including an early learning center, eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and one alternative high school. The mission of the District is to provide students an engaging educational environment, built upon proven academics and high standard, resulting in successful and contributing citizens.

Overview of the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards:

Annual payments for the funding boards began in 2012 with the last payment due December 31, 2023.  The opportunity to start flowing dollars into projects became effective December 31, 2015.

Weatherization Board ($10M): established to fund energy efficiency and weatherization for the residents, employees, business, non-profit organizations and local governments within Lewis County and South Thurston County; up to $1 million shall be allocated to fund residential energy efficiency and weatherization measures for low-income and moderate-income residents of Lewis County and South Thurston County;

Economic & Community Development Board ($20M): established to fund education, retraining, economic development, and community enhancement; at least $5M shall be allocated to fund education, retraining and economic development specifically targeting the needs of workers displaced from the Centralia facility;

Energy Technology Board ($25M): established to fund energy technologies with the potential to create environmental benefits to the state of Washington.

For more information on the Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards visit: