Quality Matters: a new report from Lighting Global

The Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program works to ensure that solar products sold around the globe meet established quality standards for product durability, representation of product performance, and warranty. To obtain quality verification, manufacturers may submit products for testing at laboratories in the Lighting Global network.

Pico-solar products include lanterns and simple systems with a peak PV module power up to 10 watts. These small systems encompass 85% of the global cumulative sales of off-grid solar devices. Although more than 30 million quality assured off-grid solar products have been sold globally over the past eight years, the sales numbers for products that do not undergo quality verification (hence are “non-QV”) is even higher. Field observations and customer experiences indicate that non-QV products typically underperform compared to the standards established by Lighting Global.

In order to ascertain the actual performance of these devices, Lighting Global laboratories recently tested 17 pico-solar non-QV products that are top-sellers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria and Tanzania. Products were purchased direct from market retailers.

Key results:

All 17 evaluated products failed to meet the Lighting Global Quality Standards for pico-PV products.

  • 94% of the tested products fail to meet the Standards due to one or more deficiency that
    affects product durability.
  • 88% of the tested products inaccurately advertise product performance.
  • 88% of the tested products do not include a consumer-facing warranty.
  • 76% of the tested products would require significant changes to product design and
    components to meet the Quality Standards.

The Lighting Global Quality Assurance team issued the report this August as part of the Technical Notes series. Chris Carlsen (a Schatz Center alumnus) led the effort in collaboration with team members from CLASP, the Schatz Center, World Bank Group regional lighting programs, and the Lighting Global network of test labs.

Read the complete report on the Lighting Global website…

Corroded batteries, shown inside and removed from the product

NiMH batteries with leaked electrolyte: When a battery is faulty, of low quality, or stored at a deeply discharged state, the battery cell can rupture and leak electrolyte. The battery pack in this product was not functional, and has leaked corrosive chemicals that damaged adjacent electronic components. – From page 12 of the Quality Matters report

Schatz Education Program: Volunteer Opportunity

The Schatz Center’s education team brings energy-based environmental programs to the local community. Education volunteers are key members of our outreach—leading many of our presentations for K12 classrooms, afterschool and summer programs, campus fairs, and community events.

A docent and three robotics campers explore solar circuits

Education volunteers:

  • Enjoy working with diverse age groups
  • Are comfortable with public speaking
  • Have a background or strong interest in science or education
  • Are able to volunteer 1-5 hours per week

Students in all majors are invited to apply.

Application Procedure:

Submit a letter of application, a one-page resume, and an unofficial transcript of academic coursework to Schatz Energy Research Center, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521 or via email to serc@humboldt.edu.

All applications must be received by 5 pm Friday, August 31, 2018.

Summer Camp Energy Outreach

A student attaches a solar module to a fan


A Robotics student attaches a solar module to a fan


On Tuesday afternoon, we joined the Yurok Tribe’s summer camp at the mouth of the Klamath River, to explore solar and wind power with elementary and middle school students. On Thursday, the HSU Robotics Camp met with the Center’s Lighting Lab team to learn about our off-grid solar product testing and build simple circuits.

Schatz docent Matilda Kerwin is working with the Robotics Camp this summer, and was interviewed this week on KIEM-TV about the program.

We will also be participating in the HSU Natural History Museum’s Careers of the Future Camp for ages 8-12 this July. Registration links for upcoming camps are below!

A student and counselor attach solar modules to a fan


A student and counselor construct a simple solar circuit

SEL Real-Time Automation Controllers

Last week, Schatz Center engineers Dave Carter and Marc Marshall attended a training in Portland, Oregon to learn about the capabilities of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories’ (SEL) Real-Time Automation Controllers (RTAC). Designed for use in utility substations and other industrial control and automation systems, these rugged controllers are powerful, flexible, and configurable.

The Center currently has multiple projects where the SEL RTAC will be used as part of the control system, including the Redwood Coast Airport (ACV) Microgrid. The rigorous three-day training covered a broad range of RTAC capabilities and strengthened our foundation in automation and control for energy efficiency and renewable energy systems.

Dave Carter sitting at a laptop connected to SEL equipment

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories RTAC training

New publication on CA’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Kevin Fingerman, Colin Sheppard, and Andrew Harris recently authored an article on California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Modeling financial least-cost pathways to compliance in Northern California. This paper shares the results of a technoeconomic model developed at the Schatz Center to explore cost-effective pathways for replacing gasoline with alternative vehicle fuels, such as electricity, biodiesel, ethanol, and hydrogen.

Our study focused on six regions within Northern California, with the goal of simulating the most effective pathway to reaching the 10% reduction in transportation fuel greenhouse gas emissions that is mandated by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). Within the study regions, the analysis found that compliance with the LCFS will be more difficult than expected, and that electric vehicles should be expected to play a critical role in achieving vehicle emissions reduction goals.

The article will be published in the August 2018 (Vol 63) edition of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment and is available to download here in pdf.

Schatz Energy Spring/Summer Newsletter

Our print (and pdf) newsletter is just off the press, with features & updates on:

  • the Redwood Coast Airport (ACV) microgrid
  • breaking ground on Solar+ at the Blue Lake Rancheria
  • the California Biopower Impact project
  • our recent publications on biomass conversion technologies
  • the May dedication of the West Wing addition, and
  • HSU’s first EV charging station, unveiled at the Schatz Center…

… Plus a recap of our spring education and outreach programs, faculty and fellowship news, and recent conference presentations.

Two middle school students hold solar modules and fans in the sun


Students explore solar circuits at the 2018 Redwood Environmental Education Fair

Director’s Note: June 2018

On May 4, we had the pleasure of hosting the Schatz Center Advisory Board for our annual meeting. In addition to our customary discussion of Center activities and strategy, we were happy to be able to include the Advisory Board members in a dedication ceremony for our new building addition, which we have been calling the ‘West Wing.’

Advisory Board standing outside the West Wing

Schatz Advisory Board members (left to right): Andrea Tuttle, Rick Duke, Jeff Serfass, Jack West, Christina Manansala West, David Rubin, David Katz, and Denise Helwig, and Directors Charles Chamberlin, Peter Lehman and Arne Jacobson. Not pictured: Dan Kammen and Jaimie Levin.

During the meeting, we reported our progress toward the Center’s strategic goals—which are derived from our mission to promote clean and renewable energy—and discussed our portfolio of projects, budget, staffing, and space within this context. We were able to report good news to the Advisory Board in multiple spheres.

We noted that our two most active project areas are those related to (i) renewable energy microgrids, grid integration of renewable energy, and associated demand-side management strategies and (ii) improved access to energy in off-grid and marginal grid communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Together with our partners, we have received recognition for our efforts in both areas: in January alone, the Blue Lake Rancheria renewable energy microgrid was awarded the Project of the Year for Distributed Energy Resources at the annual DistribuTECH conference in San Antonio, Texas, while our energy access team simultaneously played a key role at the premier international conference for the off-grid solar sector, the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo in Hong Kong. We also have current projects and activities in bioenergy, clean transportation, off-shore wind, energy efficiency, hydrogen energy, clean energy policy, and education/outreach. Our staff expertise continues to deepen, and we have ample opportunities for continued work in pursuit of our mission.

Regarding staffing, we have a motivated, skilled, and professional team, and their strengths provide the foundation for our success. Recent additions to the Schatz Center include Dr. Nicholas Lam (research scientist), Kaileigh Vincent-Welling (engineering technician), Richard Williams (engineering technician), and Jessica Ramirez (administrative assistant). We are pleased to welcome them to our team. During the advisory board meeting, we discussed two strategic foci in relation to personnel. We began by noting the importance of expanding our team’s project management capacity to meet the needs of our growing work portfolio. We then discussed our commitment to increasing staff diversity and ensuring a broadly welcoming work environment. We appreciate our board’s thoughtful advice, and we look forward to a continued focus on these key issues.

And, of course, we celebrated our new building and the opportunities that it enables. Importantly, the increase in space—along with a commitment to student mentorship by faculty and staff on our team—has allowed us to hire nine summer student interns. They join seven continuing student employees, for a total of 16 students working with us this summer. This is the largest number of students working at Schatz Center at one time in the history of our organization. We are grateful for the contributions that each student is making to our work, and I thank my colleagues for all that they have done to create hands-on learning opportunities.

Happy summer solstice, and goodbye until next time. ~ Arne Jacobson

Dedication of the Schatz Center West Wing

On Friday, May 4, we formally dedicated our new West Wing addition. Congressional Representative Jared Huffman was joined by HSU President Lisa Rossbacher, Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Council Member Jason Ramos, and Schatz Advisory Board members Jack West and Andrea Tuttle to celebrate the Center’s expansion.

The 1900 square foot addition is located immediately west of the main building, and includes two faculty offices, a conference room, and fourteen staff and student workstations. This increase in space has enabled us to hire nine additional student research assistants for summer 2018 to work on projects in wind energy, smart grids, biomass assessment, and off-grid energy access.

Student researchers outside the West Wing addition

Summer 2018 Schatz student research assistants (l to r):
Cassidy Barrientos, Tanya Garcia, Ellen Thompson, Sabrinna Rios Romero, Karsten Hayes, Anh Bui, Chih-Wei Hsu, Craig Mitchell, and Rene DeWees

The dedication ceremony was followed by an open house with demonstrations in solar product testing, biomass energy, and microgrid management systems, an unveiling of interpretive photo galleries newly installed throughout both buildings, and the official deployment of the first electric vehicle charging station on the HSU campus.

The West Wing addition was designed by Suarez Kuehne Architecture of San Francisco and built by a team led by Adams Commercial General Contracting of Eureka. Humboldt State University Facilities Management coordinated the design and construction process. The project was fully funded by donor contributions, including major support from the estate of Louis W. Schatz, additional gifts from Anne and David Katz, Peter and Carolyn Lehman, Christina and Jack West, Jamie Everett, and Joel Lehman, and grant funding from the California Energy Commission.

Jared Huffman speaks from a podium, between a zero-emission vehicle and the West Wing

Congressional Representative Jared Huffman speaks at the West Wing dedication

Lisa Rossbacher and Peter Lehman listen to fellow speakers at the West Wing dedication

HSU President Lisa Rossbacher and Schatz Founding Director Peter Lehman

Andrea Tuttle and Jack West (applauding)

Schatz Advisory Board member Andrea Tuttle (left) is recognized for sponsoring the Donald and Andrea Tuttle Fellowship for Clean Energy Studies (with Advisory Board member Jack West, right)

Arne Jacobson and Matthew Marshall outside the Schatz Center

Schatz Director Arne Jacobson and RCEA Executive Director Matthew Marshall celebrate the dedication

Schatz Energy interviews on KHSU

Catch up with these recent Schatz Energy interviews on the KHSU Magazine:

Measuring Dirty Fuels to Improve Lives
Show host David Reed with Schatz Center’s Nick Lam • April 13, 2018

Resilience Achieved with Blue Lake Rancheria Microgrid
Show host Katie Whiteside with Schatz Center’s Peter Lehman and Jana Ganion of the Blue Lake Rancheria • April 5, 2018

Do Wind Turbines Make Good Neighbors?
Show host Katie Whiteside with visiting SFSS lecturer Joseph Rand • February 22, 2018

Lectures from the Sustainable Futures Speaker Series are also posted to Humboldt Digital Scholar once available.

EV charging station unveiled at the Schatz Center

Humboldt State University recently unveiled its first electric vehicle (EV) charging station, located next to the Schatz Center’s “West Wing” addition. “We are proud to introduce electric vehicle charging to the HSU campus and advance our goals of greenhouse gas reduction and sustainability,” says Dr. Peter Lehman, the Center’s founding director. The new charging station supports goals articulated in HSU’s Climate Action Plan and reflects the Center’s longtime investment in clean transportation.

Gasoline and diesel transportation currently accounts for 39% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Zero-emission vehicles, including EVs, directly limit both greenhouse gases and air pollution. Additionally, EV charging stations can support clean power generation. By charging their vehicles during the day, drivers can offset the solar energy “duck curve”—thus reducing the need for nighttime energy storage and allowing utility operators to incorporate more solar generation on the grid.

A red Tesla charges at the Schatz EV station

To charge at Schatz:

  • The Schatz Energy Research Center is located on the south side of campus, across from the Behavioral & Social Sciences building. To access the charging station, take the driveway between the G14 and G15 lots (see map) and park on the south side of the Schatz Center.
  • The Schatz station can provide charging for either of two adjacent parking spaces. One parking space is EV-only; parking here is limited to four hours, and the vehicle must be charging while parked. The second space is ADA parking (EV not required). HSU parking permits are required for both spaces and can be purchased from the kiosk in the G15 lot.
  • This first charging station was installed with funding support from HSU’s Office of Research, Economic & Community Development and will serve as a pilot for the campus. Initial station rules are based on policies from California State Universities with similar parking needs and constraints. After Parking and Commuter Services has data on HSU usage patterns, a formal EV charging station policy will be created. Additional stations will be installed as parking lots undergo routine renovation.