Docent Opportunity at the Schatz Center

The Schatz Center’s outreach program brings energy and environmental awareness into the local community through on-site lab tours and programs, off-site classroom presentations, and participation in community events. Student docent volunteers are key to our outreach program, leading many of our presentations and tours. Docents teach about power and energy via hands-on activities and discussions tailored to age groups from late elementary through high school.

Docents enjoy working with diverse age groups, are comfortable with public speaking, have a background or strong interest in science or education and are able to volunteer 1-5 hours per week.

Students in all majors are invited to apply for our 2017 docent team. Familiarity with renewable energy technologies, experience working with youth, and fluency in Spanish, are all highly welcome skillsets.

Applications will be accepted through Friday, September 8 at 4 pm. Click here for application instructions…

Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Debbie Page-Dumroese on August 31

Join us on Thursday, August 31 at 5:30 pm in Founders Hall 118, for a presentation by visiting soil scientist Debbie Page-Dumroese on the use of biochar to sequester carbon and improve soil resilience. Biochar is a porous, high-carbon material derived from exposing biomass to temperatures above 500°C in a low-oxygen environment. The resultant “char” is typically used as a soil amendment to increase water-holding capacity and nutrient retention.

Page-Dumroese has been a Research Soil Scientist with the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station for over three decades. Her work focuses on long-term soil productivity after harvest operation, sustainable harvesting, wood decomposition, and biochar. For the last ten years, she has been investigating the potential to reduce slash pile burns and limit wildfire risks by using onsite biochar conversion technologies.

Visiting Speaker Debbie Page-Dumroese

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series is cosponsored by the Schatz Energy Research Center and HSU’s Environment & Community graduate program. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, email us at or call (707) 826-4345.

Waste to Wisdom Webinar: Wednesday, August 9

On Wednesday, August 9 at 10 am (Pacific), join SERC Research Engineer Mark Severy alongside Sevda Alanya, Richard Bergman, and Ted Bilek of the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory as they discuss results from a life cycle assessment and economic analysis of producing torrefied biomass from forest residues.

To register, visit the Waste to Wisdom site.

Cupped hands hold unprocessed and torrefied wood chips in comparison.

Unprocessed wood chips (front) and the same feedstock after torrefaction. Photo credit Kellie Brown.

Energy Ladder Research: Exploring the adoption of off-grid strategies in rural Uganda

SERC is researching solar product use in rural Uganda, to better understand what motivates and empowers low-income energy users to adopt off-grid energy solutions. This year-long study utilizes quantitative and qualitative research methods to explore customer adoption and financing behavior for off-grid energy solutions.

The Energy Ladder Research project is an initiative of the UNCDF’s CleanStart Programme, launched in partnership with SolarAid/Acumen.

Read more about the Energy Ladder Research project…

Farewell to Jason McMack and Jeff Mosbacher

This month, SERC Research Engineer Jason McMack and SERC Research Assistant Jeff Mosbacher depart for new adventures at the Colorado School of Mines. Both Jason and Jeff are graduates of the HSU Environmental Resources Engineering program, and will be pursuing master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the School of Mines. Jason began as a SERC docent in 2014, and then joined the off-grid energy access team in the summer of 2015. He completed his bachelor’s in December 2016, and has since been employed full-time at the lab. Jeff joined SERC in 2015 as a student research assistant, working on a project examining the quality of LED lights sold in Bangladesh. Jeff has continued to work with the off-grid energy access team since, and completed his bachelor’s this May. We wish them both all the best in Colorado!

Jason McMack and Jeff Mosbacher

Jason McMack (left) and Jeff Mosbacher (right)

Vacancy Announcement: Research Scientist or Policy Specialist in Energy Access

We are pleased to announce a vacancy for a research scientist or policy specialist with expertise in energy access in contexts such as sub Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and/or Latin America. This is a Ph.D.-level staff position at the Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC) at Humboldt State University. SERC was established in 1989, and it has a dynamic team of over 30 members who are focused on research and projects related to clean and renewable energy. For the past decade, SERC has played a leading role in initiatives aimed at increasing access to energy for low-income people in off-grid areas through programs such as Lighting Global and in interdisciplinary research efforts in sub Saharan Africa and South Asia covering technical, policy, market, socio-economic, and human dimensions of energy access.

The successful candidate will receive a full-time, fully benefited appointment at the Schatz Energy Research Center, which is based in Arcata, California, USA. First consideration will be given to candidates that apply by Friday, August 18, 2017. Read the full vacancy announcement…

SERC and solar power in sub-Saharan Africa

In this week’s New Yorker magazine (issue: June 26, 2017), Bill McKibben reports on solar power development in sub-Saharan Africa, including the role of quality assurance testing offered by SERC and other labs in the Lighting Global network.

Clarification (for the New Yorker piece): SERC Director Dr. Arne Jacobson played a leading role in the creation and implementation of Lighting Global, a program jointly managed by the International Finance Corporation and World Bank. The international testing labs are part of the Lighting Global network, not subsidiaries of the Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC). SERC provides setup and training for Lighting Global affiliated labs in Africa and Asia, as well as off-grid product testing and standards development.

Read more about SERC’s off-grid solar product testing lab…

Report from the annual Waste to Wisdom meeting

SERC presented at the Waste to Wisdom annual meeting in Sacramento on May 17th. This public meeting brought together over one hundred academics, policymakers, project developers, community members, and equipment manufacturers from around the country to discuss the opportunities and challenges to increasing utilization of forest residues.

Arne Jacobson, David Carter, and Mark Severy presented on Biomass Conversion Technologies: System Performance, Case Studies, and Implications for California’s Forest Management. Using examples from our research, SERC engineers described the state of biomass conversion technologies with a focus on biochar, torrefied biomass, and densified briquette production. Our presentation hinged around identifying and discussing methods for overcoming the current challenges of scale, site infrastructure, feedstock quality, environmental safety, and market development that are holding back widespread adoption of these biomass conversion technologies.

SERC’s slide presentation and additional reports and presentations from this meeting are available from Waste to Wisdom.

Briquette display

Briquettes at the Waste to Wisdom meeting, photo by Craig Rawlings of the Forest Business Network

Vacancy Announcement: Student Research Assistant for Biomass Research

The Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC) has an opening for a Student Research Assistant to work on biomass energy research and development projects during the summer of 2017. A seven-week commitment is required from July 1 to August 18, 2017. This is a full-time, temporary, non-benefited, hourly position. The hourly wage is $12.16 to $17.12 per hour; appointments are typically made at the beginning of the range.

SERC is conducting research on the utilization of forest residuals and other local woody biomass resources for the production of bioenergy and bio-based products. The Student Research Assistant is expected to work as part of a team designing, implementing, and testing data acquisition and controls software for a biochar production machine.

Click here to read the full announcement and for application instructions. All application materials must be received by 4:00 p.m., Friday, May 5, 2017.

Vacancy Announcement: Student Research Assistant

The Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC) has a temporary summer opening for a Student Research Assistant to work in our Off-Grid Solar Laboratory. The position will involve 30 to 40 hours of work per week. The hourly wage is $12.16 to $17.12 per hour; appointments are typically made at the beginning of the range. This is a temporary, non-benefited, hourly position.

The Off-Grid Solar Laboratory’s research focuses on technical issues related to the performance and quality of modern off-grid solar products that are used by people living in off-grid areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the wider developing world. SERC is the technical lead for a quality assurance program for off-grid products associated with the Lighting Global initiative.

The Student Research Associate will help administer performance tests for solar powered products for off-grid applications; carry out instrument calibrations and other technical tasks associated with ensuring the accuracy of laboratory test results; analyze data and write and review reports associated with the laboratory’s activities; and perform other laboratory tasks, as necessary.

Click here to read the full announcement and for application instructions. All application materials must be received by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 3, 2017.