Director’s Note: November 2018

Headshot of Arne Jacobson

The Camp Fire in Butte County has been the most damaging wildfire in California history. Hurricanes, wildfires, cyclones, floods, and heat waves are taking a heavy toll on communities around the globe. While no single weather event can be linked directly to climate change, weather disasters as a whole are expected to become increasingly common and destructive as climate change progresses.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent special report on the prospect of limiting climate change to a 1.5°C global average temperature rise relative to pre-industrial conditions indicates that global net human-caused greenhouse gas emissions need to decline before 2030 by about 45% relative to 2010 levels. It is imperative that we do all we can to make progress toward this goal given the expected damages associated with a failure to do so. Simultaneously, given the climate disruption that is already baked into the system, actions to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to climate damages are also needed.

Our work at the Schatz Center is strongly motivated by these challenges. Our renewable energy microgrid work combines efforts to integrate more solar power into the electrical grid while increasing resilience for critical infrastructure including emergency response centers, fuel stations, airports, and Coast Guard facilities. Likewise, our upcoming feasibility analysis of offshore wind development along California’s northern coast will explore a large potential new clean energy resource for our state. Through these and other efforts, we continue to promote clean and renewable energy and to otherwise take measures to address global climate change.

Measures to address climate change will be most effective if they are crafted by diverse teams from all walks of life. Over the past six months, we have been doing some introspective work at the Center related to staff diversity and an inclusive work environment. We held an all-day retreat in August that focused on these topics, and we have begun implementing measures identified at the retreat and subsequent staff and subcommittee meetings. As we work to make progress, I appreciate the thoughtfulness and initiative that our team has brought to the table. We are committed for the long haul when it comes to making a positive difference regarding diversity and inclusion. The successes that we achieve will make us a stronger and more effective organization.

A group photo of 35 staff standing outside the Wharfinger Building in Eureka

Schatz team at the August retreat

I will close by welcoming Carisse Geronimo and Grishma Raj Dahal to the Schatz Center. Both are graduate students in the Energy Technology and Policy (ETaP) master’s program, and they joined us in August. Carisse is the first recipient of the Donald and Andrea Tuttle Fellowship for Clean Energy Studies. She is working with Dr. Sintana Vergara and other Schatz Center colleagues on biomass energy, waste management, and associated opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Grishma, who received the Schatz Energy Fellowship, is working with our off-grid energy access team on research related to off-grid solar power. We are very glad to have them on our team.

Happy winter holidays, and goodbye until next time.

~ Arne

Northern CA coast offshore wind feasibility study

On October 25, the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University was awarded a grant from the California Ocean Protection Council (a division of the California Department of Natural Resources), to study the feasibility of offshore wind generation for the Northern California coast. The $623k grant will assess the environmental impacts, determine the required modifications of coastal infrastructure, examine stakeholder benefits and impacts, and evaluate local, state, and federal policies as they relate to offshore wind development.

A map of the northern CA coastal region included in this analysis, from Fort Bragg to southern Del Norte County. Average wind speeds are shown.

The feasibility analysis will cover selected areas in this region

Offshore wind energy is likely to play an important role in meeting California’s targets for carbon neutrality by 2045. The offshore wind resource near Humboldt Bay is among the best in the nation, with wind speeds often exceeding 10 meters per second at 90 meters above the ocean’s surface (Schwartz 2010), which is the approximate height of wind turbines. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the state’s offshore winds have the technical potential to produce 392 TWh per year, about 150% of California’s annual electricity load (Musial 2016).

Analysis of North Coast wind speed data has shown that the wind power is fairly consistent throughout the day (Musial 2016) when compared to other renewable resources such as land-based wind or solar. Offshore wind could provide a more consistent power flow to the grid, which in turn would support increased integration of technologies with highly variable generation throughout the day, such as solar. But California’s deep ocean floor, sensitive ecosystems, seismic activity, and protected coastlines, will require careful research and development in order to responsibly develop offshore wind projects. Engaging California’s coastal communities — who have the most to lose from sea level rise due to climate change — in early research and planning is critical for successful future development efforts.

The project is expected to kickoff in early 2019. For this project, the Schatz Energy Research Center is collaborating with ecological consultants from H.T. Harvey and Associates, coastal engineering specialists from Mott MacDonald, and faculty in the Economics and Environmental Science & Management departments at Humboldt State.

References

CLASP and IFC affiliated team members visit the Schatz Center

Last week, the Lighting Global team hosted Riley Macdonald from CLASP and Honglin Hui, a consultant to the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Riley recently joined the CLASP team as Market Development Coordinator and is based in Washington, DC. Honglin recently joined the IFC team as a Lighting Global China consultant and is based in Shenzhen, China.

Riley and Honglin participated in three days of training designed to increase their understanding of the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program. The training included sessions on testing methods, standards, and policies used by the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program, as well as hands-on work in the test lab. We also met to discuss approaches for outreach to Chinese manufacturers that are reflective of Chinese business culture and represent best practices for cross-language communication.

Arne and Honglin inspect a module in the Schatz Center's off-grid solar products test lab.

Arne Jacobson and Honglin Hui inspect a solar module.

Kaileigh Vincent-Welling and Riley Macdonald work in the Schatz Center's off-grid solar products test lab.

Kaileigh Vincent-Welling demonstrates the solar charge test for Riley Macdonald.

An extended hand turns the dial on an Electronic Load, which reads 0.0003V and 0.002A.

Scott Toyama shows how an electronic load is used to test the port performance of off-grid solar products.

Six people stand in a narrow, wet canyon with fern-covered walls.

Our visitors join the team for a hike in Fern Canyon.

Energy Paths for the Yurok People

We recently helped the Yurok Tribe secure $180,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy and we are now working together to develop a Yurok Tribe Strategic Energy Action Plan. This plan will support the tribe’s efforts to increase energy efficiency, develop local renewable energy resources, reduce energy costs, and meet energy needs on the reservation. First we will identify potential energy projects that can help achieve these goals. This list will then be screened and prioritized based on technical feasibility, cost, likelihood of being funded, and other criteria. Finally, we will work with the Tribe to select a few key projects where we will develop preliminary design and cost information sufficient to “queue them up” for future funding and deployment.

Our work will be split between two key regions of the Reservation – the Klamath region at the mouth of the Klamath River (served by Pacific Power) and the upriver region near Weitchpec (served by Pacific Gas & Electric). Projects will be identified in these two regions that can provide economic, environmental, resilience, and energy security benefits. These may include community solar installations with energy storage, micro-hydropower, microgrid technologies, and participation in aggregate net metering programs. The Yurok Tribe has been working for years to make sure all tribal members on the reservation have access to reliable, affordable, modern, cost-effective energy services. This project aims to outline a clear path to achieving these goals.

RELATED EVENTS…

On Thursday, November 1, Santa Clara law professor Catherine Sandoval will present her research on “The Native American reservation electricity access gap: a case study of the Yurok Tribe’s leadership and next steps for energy justice and climate change.” The talk will be held at 5:30 pm in the Native American Forum on the HSU campus.

Dr. Sandoval’s research will also be released shortly in Energy Justice: US and International Perspectives (New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018).

Looking over a ridge toward evergreen mountains

Looking south along the Klamath River from the new Tulley Creek Transportation Building

Nov 1 lecture: the Native American reservation electricity access gap

For our final talk in this semester’s Sustainable Futures Speaker Series, Catherine J.K. Sandoval will explore The Native American reservation electricity access gap: a case study of the Yurok Tribe’s energy access leadership and next steps for energy justice and climate change.

Please note that this lecture will be held in the Native American Forum (BSS 162).

Catherine Sandoval is a tenured Law Professor at Santa Clara University, where she teaches energy, communications, antitrust, and contract law. Her research explores the intersection of energy, the environment, telecommunications, and underserved and disadvantaged communities — including the Native American reservation electricity gap and the role of net neutrality in powering energy and forestalling climate change.

Catherine Sandoval headshot

Sandoval served as a Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission from 2011-2017, and was the first Latinx person appointed as a CPUC Commissioner. She serves on the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of California Advisory Council, and received the Chamber’s 2016 Warrior Award for her work to improve Native American utility infrastructure access and service. The first person in her family to earn a Bachelor’s, she received a B.A. from Yale University; a Master of Letters in politics from Oxford University, where she was the first Latina to win a Rhodes Scholarship; and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.

Download the event flyer

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series at Humboldt State creates interdisciplinary discussion, debate, and collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. Fall 2018 lectures are held on Thursdays from 5:30-7 pm. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, visit our series events page or call (707) 826-4345.

Lighting Global Quality Assurance: test method and standards updates

As a growing and dynamic industry, the off-grid solar market encompasses a wide diversity of product quality. Some products are designed and manufactured well, while others fall short of expectations for safety, durability, or performance. In many households, purchasing an off-grid solar product is a major financial decision. Poor quality products can lead to market spoilage — in which consumers lose trust in an entire technology. Product standards and testing provide quality assurance for consumers, and support those companies who follow best practices in manufacturing and design.

Starting in 2007, the Schatz Center, working in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany, helped develop a set of test methods for evaluating off-grid solar product quality. In 2013, a revised version of these test methods was published by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) under IEC TS 62257-9-5. Since 2009, we have worked closely with Lighting Africa, Lighting Asia and Lighting Global World Bank Group initiatives to develop an international program for quality assurance and consumer protection for LED-based off-grid lighting and power systems.

In the last ten years, over 29 million Lighting Global Quality Verified solar lighting products have been sold, benefitting more than 147 million people.

Recent developments:

  • In 2018, we updated the test methods to include a more robust analysis of ports and appliances. This new version of the IEC TS 62257-9-5 was published in June.
  • The Schatz Center renewed and expanded our ISO 17025 accreditation through the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) to be one of the three off-grid solar testing labs internationally accredited to conduct testing according to the new version of IEC TS 62257-9-5.
  • We recently submitted the Lighting Global Quality Standards to the IEC for adoption. Having these standards published by the IEC will create an easier path for government adoption and will help limit the sale of poor quality products in the market.
Brightly illuminated LED products against a black background

A selection of off-grid solar products that have met the Lighting Global Quality Standards

Schatz Fellow joins panel on inclusivity at American Solar Energy Society conference

This August, Schatz Energy Fellow Thalia Quinn presented for a panel discussion on Broadening Access to Solar: Jobs, Careers, and Futures, at the American Solar Energy Society’s 47th annual conference in Boulder, Colorado. Panelists discussed paths for the solar energy field to increase inclusivity and the economic opportunities of underrepresented communities. Thalia shared her recent journey from undergraduate work in chemical engineering into the field of renewable energy. Moderated by Annie Lappé, the panel also included representatives from Grid Alternatives, the American Association for Blacks in Energy, Power52, SolarWorld, and Sandia Labs.

Conference talks included the estimated locational value of solar, progress in electric vehicle costs compared to combustion engines, solar resource and solar cost/benefit webtools, and current events in solar policy. The conference closed with a discussion of policies designed to increase the deployment and ease of procuring solar energy in the Interior West region. Jessica Scott described achievements and lessons learned from Vote Solar campaigns: recently, Nevada legislature submitted a ballot initiative pushing for a higher renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which would increase the state’s RPS from 25 percent by 2025, to 40 percent by 2040.

A meadow leads to evergreens, peaked mountains, and white clouds in a blue sky

Conference participants took a Sunday hike through Chautauqua Park (photo by Thalia Quinn)

New publication: measuring residence time distributions in screw conveyor reactors

Charles Chamberlin, David Carter, and Arne Jacobson recently authored an article on measuring residence time distributions of wood chips in a screw conveyor reactor. A screw conveyor or auger makes use of a rotating helical blade inside of a tube or trough to move wood chips, sawdust, flour, or other granular materials through a reactor — such as a dryer, heater, cooler, gasifier, or torrefier. How much change in the materials takes place in such reactors depends on the average residence time and how variable that residence time is.

Internal view of a screw conveyor.

The screw conveyor in this Norris Thermal Technologies torrefier moves the woods chips from the inlet (on the left) to the outlet (on the right). The rate of rotation controls the residence time within the reactor. The reactor cover has been removed to show the screw.

This paper compares three alternative methods for measuring the residence time distribution of wood chips in a screw conveyor reactor using experimental results from a pilot scale torrefier:

  • addition of material to an empty reactor (step-up),
  • halting addition of material to a reactor under steady flow, (step-down), and
  • addition of a pulse of labelled material (i.e., a tracer) to a reactor under steady flow.

We found that all three methods yield residence time distributions that are approximately symmetrical and bell-shaped, but the distribution estimated from the pulse input of tracer exhibited a long trailing tail that was not detectable in either the step-up or step-down results. Second, we demonstrated that a normal probability plot provided a useful way to display and analyze the distributions obtained in the tracer experiments. Finally, we observed that all three methods yielded mean residence times that consistently differed from the nominal values, with the step-up method averaging 8% shorter, the pulse addition of tracer averaging 7% longer, and the step-down averaging 60% longer.

The article appeared in the August 2018 issue of Fuel Processing Technology and is available to download here in pdf.

October 18 lecture: Local water innovation through community-university partnerships

Headshot of Lonny Grafman

This talk will share inspiring solutions for water collection, storage, treatment, and conservation that have been created by community engagement.

Lonny Grafman has worked on and led teams for hundreds of domestic and international projects across a broad spectrum of sustainable design and entrepreneurship — from solar energy to improved cookstoves, micro-hydro power to rainwater catchment, and from earthen construction to plastic bottle schoolrooms. Throughout all these technology implementations, he has found the most vital component to be community. His first book shares stories and strategies for communities coming together To Catch the Rain.

Grafman is an engineering instructor at HSU; the founder of the Practivistas summer abroad, full immersion, resilient community technology program; the project manager of the epi-apocalyptic city art project Swale; the Chief Product Officer of Nexi; Managing Director of the BlueTechValley North Coast Hub; and the President of the Appropedia Foundation, sharing knowledge to build rich, sustainable lives.

Download the event flyer

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series at Humboldt State creates interdisciplinary discussion, debate, and collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. Fall 2018 lectures are held on Thursdays from 5:30-7 pm in HSU Siemens Hall 108 (with the exception of Catherine Sandoval’s talk on November 1, which will be held in the Native American Forum / BSS 162). For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, visit our series events page or call (707) 826-4345.

A pipe sliced in half to catch rain

A sliced PVC pipe is ready to catch rain at the Pedregal Permaculture Demonstration Center in San Andres Huayapam, Mexico

Student research developments: summer 2018

This summer, thirteen students contributed to Schatz Center research projects in smart grids, bioenergy, wind, and off-grid energy access.

SMART GRIDS

Craig Mitchell provided construction observation at the Solar+ installation, tracking the canopy weight in real-time and serving as an onsite liaison between contractors and the Schatz microgrid team. As part of his observation, Craig recorded the installation’s actual daily labor and equipment requirements, to better define the needs for similar projects in the future. He is currently developing a hardware design toolkit that documents lessons learned in the Solar+ installation.

Solar+ students standing outside the Schatz Center

Solar+ student team: (l to r) Craig Mitchell, Thalia Quinn, Ellen Thompson and Rene DeWees

Thalia Quinn, Ellen Thompson and René DeWees have been developing a model to assess the current and future costs of building microgrids that integrate solar, battery storage, and fast EV charging. This model will help define which sites are good candidates for investment, and identify future research and development opportunities. This summer, the team conducted a detailed literature review to assess current and forecasted cost data: Thalia focused on battery storage, Ellen on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and René on solar PV. They are now refining their cost model and generating a convenience store survey, to understand how current site owners view microgrids and to better assess installation opportunities.

Smart grid design is also evolving to take advantage of demand response technologies. As part of a collaboration with GE & Southern California Edison, Anh Bui developed an algorithm using Python code for estimating the tension between shifting a customer load to benefit the grid versus shifting a load to reduce their bill. Anh also helped with the installation of our new Schatz Solar Array in September.

Anh Bui tightens a solar module on the Schatz Center roof

Anh Bui installs a module for the new Schatz Solar Array

BIOENERGY

This summer, Sabrinna Rios Romero quantified decay rates for the post-harvest residues of seven agricultural crops: corn, wheat, rice, cotton, almond, walnut and grape. These decay rates will allow us to better assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission implications of leaving residues in field versus converting them into electricity. This fall, Sabrinna is surveying state foresters to clarify the fate of forest residues — i.e. whether they are piled, burned, or scattered in the field — information which will allow us to more accurately assess emissions following forest harvest. She has also been analyzing biomass samples using a bomb calorimeter and a thermogravimetric analyzer, to measure the performance of a gasifier system.

Cassidy Barrientos conducted a literature review that characterized GHG emissions from wood chip storage (e.g. chip piles at a power plant). Decomposition during storage — and the resulting emissions — are an area that have not been well-quantified, and may represent an important source of greenhouse gases. In September, Cassidy and Schatz Faculty Research Associate Sintana Vergara presented a poster, “Characterizing greenhouse gas emissions from wood chip storage,” and gave an oral presentation “Waste not: Improving the efficiency of using forestry residues as an energy resource” at the ARI Principal Investigator’s Meeting in Sacramento.

Cassidy Barrientos in front of her poster at the ARI conference

Cassidy Barrientos at the ARI Principal Investigator’s Meeting

Max Blasdel continued his ongoing work for the California Biopower Impacts Project. Max is characterizing the field decomposition of woody biomass residues left behind by forestry operations. His efforts comprise a key component of the business-as-usual case used to evaluate the net climate impacts of biomass removal for electricity generation. Max’s project research will form the basis for his master’s thesis in the Natural Resources program here at Humboldt State.

WIND ENERGY

Karsten Hayes developed an initial cost model (using Python and R) for north coast California offshore wind energy. The model includes associated storage needs, and integrates high-resolution offshore wind resource data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory with load data for Humboldt County and California, drawn from Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

OFF-GRID ENERGY ACCESS

Eli Wallach and Chih-Wei Hsu developed a method to estimate the number of fossil fuel generators used in low- and middle-income countries, how much electricity they generate, and how much fuel they consume. Their work supports a larger effort to estimate the economic, environmental and health impacts of fossil fuel generator systems used as a primary or backup source of electricity. To inform their assumptions and approach, they drew from multiple sources of data, including dozens of nationally representative household and business surveys. These data helped them understand the intensity of generator use at the country level, and in which sectors they are being utilized (i.e. commercial, residential). Eli and Chih-Wei’s fuel consumption estimates for over 130 countries are currently being utilized to update a widely used air quality and climate impacts model maintained by project collaborators at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis.

Schatz fellow Anamika Singh worked this summer with a team led by Dr. Amol Phadke at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her research, which included collaboration with Dr. Phadke and Dr. Nikit Abhyankar, focused on identifying the parity price at which renewable energy technologies become feasible for heavy industries in India. Read more in our Fall 2018 From the Fellows report…

Chih-Wei and Anamika also helped with our Schatz Solar Array installation in September.

Tanya Garcia worked in the Schatz Center’s off-grid solar lab this summer, conducting solar product tests — including durability (drop and ingress), safety, and truth in advertising (light output, max power, full battery run time, etc.). She developed communications templates for the test lab network and edited specifications sheets to clarify product test policies. Tanya also helped test an open source electricity monitor, the EmonPi, and provided energy outreach activities for university and K-12 groups. Tanya is continuing her work in the off-grid solar lab this fall.

Tanya Garcia unpacks a solar module in the Schatz courtyard

Tanya Garcia prepares to test a solar module