Renewables Renewed: Refurbishing the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project

Article by Scott Rommel

Three ERE students work on the solar panels at the Marine Lab.

SERC graduate student research engineers test the performance of each PV module before rewiring the array. (Photo Credit Kellie Brown)

SERC got its start in 1989 when we designed and built the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project (SSHP), the first solar hydrogen energy system in the U.S. The system was installed at Humboldt State University’s Telonicher Marine Laboratory in Trinidad, CA, 15 miles north of the HSU campus. Our installation was completed in 1991.

The purpose of the SSHP is to demonstrate the use of hydrogen to store solar electricity. The system consists of a 7.5 kW photovoltaic (PV) array, a 6 kW alkaline electrolyzer, a 1 kW 120 VAC inverter, and a 1 kW PEM hydrogen fuel cell. During the day when the sun is out, the PV array powers the load, the marine lab’s 600 Watt aquarium air compressor, while simultaneously making hydrogen via electrolysis. At night or during very cloudy times, the fuel cell draws on stored hydrogen to provide power for the load. The system is stand-alone and runs automatically with our custom control software.

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SERC Delivers Fuel Cell Test Station to Auburn University

Article by Michael Winkler

Michael WInkler and Greg Chapman with Auburn test station

SERC engineers Michael Winkler (left) and Greg Chapman (right) after installation of Auburn University’s custom fuel cell test station. (Photo Credit SERC)

SERC engineers Greg Chapman and Michael Winkler recently delivered a custom hydrogen fuel cell test station and two proton exchange membrane fuel cells to Professor Ben Choi at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. Greg and Michael spent one week integrating the test station into the university lab where it will be housed and training Professor Choi and his team of graduate student researchers in the operation and maintenance of the station. SERC will continue to provide consultation to Auburn to insure that their equipment functions well.

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Humboldt State to Get Hydrogen Powered Toyota Prius

SERC Prius being delivered

The hydrogen powered Prius being delivered to SERC. (Photo Credit SERC)

In the spring of 2007, SERC is scheduled to receive a hydrogen powered Toyota Prius for use at Humboldt State University (HSU). The vehicle will be operated for a two-year period as part of California’s Hydrogen Highway Program. HSU President Rollin Richmond will be one of the vehicle operators. According to Rollin, “it will please him greatly” to drive a hydrogen powered vehicle. He has committed a location on campus for a hydrogen fueling station. Engineers from SERC are designing and will install the station, which will include an electrolyzer, compressor, storage tanks, and a dispenser. SERC has secured $350,000 toward equipment and materials for the station. SERC is also seeking additional partners to help fund the cost of facility design and installation, as well as education and outreach efforts associated with the project.

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An Energy-Saving Home on the Range

window experiment

SERC engineer Richard Engel (right) and students compare thermal performance of double and single panel glass. (Photo Credit SERC)

A few months ago, staff of southern Oregon’s Siskiyou Field Institute (SFI) asked SERC to help make SFI’s newly acquired Deer Creek Center (DCC) a showcase for clean energy. SFI is a non-profit dedicated to increasing scientific understanding of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion through outdoor education. The Institute wanted to put solar energy to work on the DCC’s half-century-old, 6,000-square-foot ranch house. SERC staff explained to our counterparts at SFI that they would get more bang for their limited bucks by tackling energy efficiency first. So the Institute hired SERC to perform a comprehensive energy audit.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

This issue of our newsletter chronicles a milestone event for the Schatz Center. After years of work designing and installing hydrogen technology for organizations all across the U.S., we’re finally getting to build a hydrogen station here at home. SERC engineers will soon be installing a hydrogen energy station on the Humboldt State University campus. The first vehicle to gas up at the station when it is completed this Spring will be a hydrogen-fueled Prius from the California Hydrogen Highway Program. HSU President, Rollin Richmond, will use the car to commute to work. President Richmond has been an enthusiastic supporter all along; when first told of this project, he said, “This is a fabulous idea!”

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