After nearly 20 years of being housed in the old and tired University Annex building, SERC is getting a new home. A contract has now been signed for construction of the new facility. Groundwork will begin in January 2009, full-scale construction will kick off in March, and completion is slated for June 2010.
The Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, or AC Transit, has been working to introduce hydrogen fuel cell technology into their transit bus system since 1999. Today they have one of the most comprehensive hydrogen fuel cell demonstration programs in the world. This includes three fuel cell buses operating in regular passenger service that have logged over 125,000 miles while serving more than 300,000 passengers. Their program also includes a fleet of fuel cell passenger vehicles, on-site hydrogen production and fueling, on-site fuel cell vehicle maintenance, extensive evaluation, outreach and education, and safety training.
In our last issue, we announced that SERC was selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop hydrogen curriculum and teaching tools for use in California’s public universities. We now have a contract in place with DOE, and on October 30 we held a kickoff meeting with our project partners at the University of California at Berkeley. We have named the three-year project “Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education” (H2E3).
SERC has been working with the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) at UC Berkeley since 2004 on the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project. The curriculum introduces hydrogen and fuel cells into high school chemistry and science courses. To date we have completed a curriculum module consisting of six activities. The module has been field tested in numerous schools throughout the country. The curriculum module is built around a laboratory kit that allows small groups of students to work with a bench top electrolyzer and fuel cell. Students generate hydrogen via electrolysis, use the hydrogen to operate a fuel cell and power an electric motor, and then measure the efficiency of the fuel cell. In the process they learn about electrochemistry and how a fuel cell works.
The gasifier system has successfully completed shakedown testing and is now ready for experimental testing. The gasifier burns wood chips in an air-deficient environment to produce a combustible gas made up of mainly hydrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen. The preliminary test results indicate that the production gas composition is very close to the expected values as provided by the manufacturer. Upcoming experiments will include a series of runs using wood chips of varying moisture contents. The production gas will be sampled and analyzed with a gas chromatograph throughout these runs in order to determine the effect of moisture content in the wood chips on the resulting gas composition.
It was a great thrill for us at SERC to finally have a signed contract in place for the construction of our new lab/office building. After years of planning, we now have a design we can dream about and a date we can look forward to for completion of our new home. I walked up to the site the other day. The building corners are marked and I was able to imagine what it will be like to walk into a modern, energy-efficient facility right in the middle of the HSU campus. Our cover story shows the building rendering so you can dream along with us. We’ll keep you informed with updates in each forthcoming issue.