Off-Grid Lighting Adventure Continues

Flashlights in Kenyan Market

Flashlights, along with other goods, available from hawkers on the street in central Kericho, Kenya. (Photo credit SERC).

This article was written by Jennifer Tracy.

Despite dust storms stirring up eye-stinging grits of dirt, downpours that filled 50 gallon barrels and donkeys that reverberated piercing 6 AM wake up calls, it was impossible for us not to smile with gratitude and joy. For the second summer running SERC personnel traveled to Kenya to continue our ongoing field research on off-grid, efficient lighting for low income rural people. With help from our Kenyan research colleague Maina Mumbi and the hospitality of his family, SERC Co-director Arne Jacobson, Research Engineer Peter Johnstone and myself, Graduate Student Research Assistant Jenny Tracy, had a successful trip that was never short of excitement–within 15 meters of two full-grown lions we got a flat tire!

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University Curriculum Project

H2E3 Fuel Cell / Electrolyzer Kit

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

Since our last update, we have completed fabrication of two dozen benchtop fuel cell/electrolyzer kits and one of two fuel cell test stations to be built as part of the Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project (see pictures, below). The purpose of the DOE-funded H2E3 project is to bring hands-on hydrogen and fuel cell education into classrooms and labs across the University of California and California State University systems. University of California, Berkeley and several fuel cell companies are partnering with SERC on the project.

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Welcome New Faculty Research Associate

Dr. Eileen Cashman, SERC Research Associate.

Dr. Eileen Cashman, SERC Research Associate.

All of us at SERC are pleased to welcome Dr. Eileen Cashman as a new SERC faculty research associate. Eileen is a Professor in the Environmental Resources Engineering department at HSU. She is an alumna of the ERE Department where she received her B.S. degree in 1984. She went on to the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she received an M.S. in Energy Policy and Analysis and a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering. After her student work and prior to returning to teach at HSU, Eileen worked for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Wisconsin Energy Corporation, the US Geological Survey and James Madison University. At SERC, Eileen is currently involved in the feasibility study for hydroelectric resources for the Yurok tribe and the H2E3 university curriculum project (see the project update section to learn more about these projects). A little known fact is that Eileen teamed with SERC director Peter Lehman to form the double play combination for the engineering softball team in the early 1980s.

Hydrogen Learning for Local Leaders

The H2E3 fuel cell/electrolyzer kits in ENGR 115

The H2E3 fuel cell/electrolyzer kits in ENGR 115 (Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown).

Part of SERC’s mission is to educate people about clean and renewable energy. To that end, SERC is working on a US Department of Energy funded project to inform local government leaders about the long-term benefits and near-term realities of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. SERC is partnered with the Technology Transition Corporation, who founded and manages the National Hydrogen Association, and the Public Technology Institute (PTI), which assists local government with technology development and implementation. To date, SERC has developed a curriculum and delivered it at PTI’s annual conference in San Diego, as well as via a webinar hosted by PTI. In the coming year we will make additional conference and webinar presentations while also developing and implementing a train-the-trainer component to the project. This will increase our effectiveness at getting the word out about hydrogen.

SERC Raises Wind Monitoring Tower with the Yurok Tribe

SERC and Yurok Staff Raise a 50m Wind Monitoring Tower

SERC and Yurok Staff Raise a 50m Wind Monitoring Tower (Photo credit SERC).

SERC staff and Yurok Tribe members recently raised a 50-meter meteorological tower atop McKinnon Hill on the Yurok Reservation. The tower will be used to collect wind data for one year, and SERC will use the data to conduct a wind energy feasibility analysis for the Tribe. At left, SERC engineers Richard Engel and Chris Carlsen work with Yurok planner Austin Nova to raise the gin pole. At right, the tower raising team celebrates their accomplishment. From left are Roger Gibbons, Richard Engel, Austin Nova, Chris Carlsen, Colin Sheppard, Victor, Jim Zoellick, and Ray Daniels (Six Rivers Communications).

A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

The Schatz lab celebrated its 20th year anniversary with a gala picnic and reunion last month. The food was delicious, the fog lifted just in time, and Schatzers new and old got to enjoy a wonderful afternoon at Freshwater Park.

So much has happened since that first phone call with Mr. Schatz and the first meeting that Charles and I had to plan the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project. At last count, 77 people have worked and studied at SERC. SERC alumni have gone on to become professors, fuel cell researchers, engineers of all sorts, and energy aware citizens. We’ve developed the first PEM fuel cell car, two patents, and three still-running licenses for our technology. Soon, our new 6600 square foot lab and office building will be complete and we’ll have our dream home for decades to come. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this 20 years ago, but I feel fortunate to have had so many wonderful people as colleagues and that we have accomplished so much to promote clean and renewable energy.

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North Coast Teachers Learn HyTEC

HyTEC Manual Cover

Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells was published by project partner Lab-Aids, Inc. in March 2011.

SERC had a busy summer working to get the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) into high school classrooms. HyTEC is a 2-3 week curriculum developed over the last four years through a partnership between Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley (LHS) and SERC. HyTEC is designed to introduce high school chemistry and environmental science students to hydrogen energy and fuel cell concepts in the course of their regular classwork.

We led two 2-day teacher training workshops at Humboldt State University (HSU) for local teachers and participated in another 2-day teacher training at LHS in Berkeley for teachers from across the nation.

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