Humboldt County has become a hotbed of renewable energy development. We’ve reported in a past issue that Humboldt County residents have the highest per capita use of grid connected solar systems in California, even though our amount of sunshine is less than in southern areas. Now things have intensified, with large corporations getting in on the Humboldt drive to switch to renewables.
The Schatz Center recently hosted a visit from Tim O’Leary and his colleagues from Shell Renewables and Hydrogen. Shell has begun the process of developing a wind farm on Bear River Ridge, just inland from Cape Mendocino and one of the best wind sites in the western U.S. Local ranchers are enthusiastic as they see wind farming as a way to gain revenue and keep their generations-old ranches active and thriving. Pacific Gas and Electric Company has announced that they’ll begin prospecting off the Humboldt County coast for wave energy potential. North coast wave energy could make a huge contribution to renewable energy in California. DG Energy is looking to increase its use of wood chips and other woody biomass to produce electricity; Humboldt County already gets almost 50% of its electricity from wood. And here at the Schatz lab, we’ve begun a partnership with Forestry faculty and the Schatz Tree Farm (yes, it’s the same Mr. Schatz) to study gasification and pyrolysis of woody biomass. We’re aiming to get biomass out of the forest and producing useful energy. This has a large potential to produce renewable energy in the West as fuel reduction efforts in our national forests will supply biomass for decades to come.
Meanwhile, as I write this, my colleague and SERC co-director, Arne Jacobson, is halfway around the world in Kenya beginning work on a LED lighting project. Arne reports on his work in our cover story in this issue. We also report on our outreach efforts in three remote schools in the Yurok Reservation and our efforts here in town to help the United Indian Health Services facility go solar. Finally, there’s a note about the upcoming North Coast Energy Alternatives Conference sponsored, in part, by SERC. It should be a lively day as we discuss how to make Humboldt cleaner and greener.
I’m writing this on the summer solstice. Happy summer to all of you. May your days be filled with fun, adventure, and plenty of solar energy.