Efficient Off-Grid Lighting in Kenya

Kenyan street vendor "before"

“Before”: M.J., a vendor in the Kenyan town of Maai Mahiu, poses with his hurricane-type kerosene lamp inside his kiosk. (Photo credit SERC).

Kenyan street vendor "after"

“After”: M.J. with his LED lamp that he obtained through our research effort. (Photo credit SERC).

We continued our research on efficient lighting for sub-saharan Africa in winter 2009 as a continuing partner in the Lumina Project, a collaboration between SERC Co-director Arne Jacobson and Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Over a month-long trip in summer 2008, Dr. Jacobson, Kristen Radecsky, and I traveled in the Rift Valley region of Kenya doing market field testing of small, rechargeable LED lighting products. In January 2009, I returned to the field for two weeks to follow up with the study participants and wrap up the year’s data collection effort. The January tasks included a follow-up survey for night market vendors who participated in the study, surveying the demand threshold for illumination for the vendors, and gathering samples of
LED products that are available in the Kenyan marketplace.

Between July 2008 and January 2009 our research participants had 6 months to work with the LED lamps they purchased through our project, and their response to the technology has been very positive. M.J., a research participant in the town of Maai Mahiu says, “I stay open longer now than before. I’ve noticed more customers are attracted to my business in the evening compared to before, and they can see my goods more clearly. Continue reading

“Bagasse Across America” Road Trip

Drying bagasse in the sun

SERC graduate student research assistants Meg Harper and Joe Purdon sun-dry the fresh bagasse after unloading it from the rental truck. (Photo credit SERC).

This article was written by Joe Purdon.

As part of SERC’s ongoing gasification research, we are investigating the feasibility of gasifying bagasse on behalf of the Indonesian Sugar Group (see our Summer 2008 newsletter). After sugar and molasses have been extracted from sugarcane, bagasse is what remains of the cane. Sugar mills normally burn bagasse to generate electric or thermal energy. Gasification is potentially a cleaner and more efficient way of producing energy with this agricultural byproduct.

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Yurok Wind and Hydro Feasibility Study Update

Yurok Stream Flow Monitoring

HSU graduate student Jenny Tracy and Yurok Tribe Planner Austin Nova measure stream flow at Pecwan Creek. (Photo credit SERC).

SERC is working with the Yurok Tribe to examine the feasibility of developing hydro and wind power resources on the Yurok Reservation. SERC and Yurok Tribe staff recently installed gauging stations on Ke’Pel and Pecwan Creeks. These stations provide continuous monitoring of stream elevation. Periodically we visit the sites and measure stream flow. We will use this information to develop stage-discharge curves for the two creeks. The stage-discharge curves will allow us to convert the continuous stream elevation data into flow data. We are also installing rain gauges at each site. We plan to use precipitation data to help us correlate the data for these two streams with other streams in the area for which there are long-term stream flow and precipitation data records.

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University Hydrogen Curriculum Update

H2E3 Fuel Cell / Electrolyzer Kit

H2E3 Fuel Cell / Electrolyzer Kit (Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown)

SERC’s Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project continues to pick up steam. We are now building the first of the two fuel cell test stations we will make for use in undergraduate engineering labs. The stations will be temporarily installed on a rotating basis at California State University and University of California campuses over the next two years. After surveying available fuel cells from commercial suppliers, we decided to build our own stacks for use with the test stations. The stations and stacks will be completed during the coming months.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

Over the years I’ve given numerous talks about energy to audiences ranging from university students to citizen groups. Whenever I speak about the renewable energy future that we must someday achieve, a frequent question is, “What do we need to get there?” My answer has always been, “The most important thing we need is political leadership at the top.”

About two months into the Obama administration, we finally have that leadership. The President has recognized and has said out loud numerous times that energy issues are crucial to our economic health and our national security. He has proposed increased energy efficiency standards, a cap and trade system to address carbon emissions, and a 10 year, $150 billion investment in clean energy, among many other proposals. His goals are ambitious, too ambitious say some, in light of the host of problems we all face, but we at the Schatz Center applaud him for his vision and his courage. It’s about time our nation has a forward looking energy policy and we wish the President and DOE Secretary Steven Chu luck in moving their agenda forward.

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