Over the last two years, SERC has been engaged in energy efficiency policy analysis at the national scale. The National Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation contracted SERC to answer the question: Can progress in energy efficiency and energy conservation be tracked at the state level? If so, can a metric be developed to rank states and reward high performers? In short the answer is yes, but better data are needed before the government should begin to implement a program to reward states for energy performance.
At last spring’s National Hydrogen Association (NHA) conference, graduate research assistant Andrea Allen reported on the performance and efficiency of our hydrogen fueling station over its first full year of operation. During the conference, SERC director Peter Lehman and Andrea discussed the efficiency of the electrolyzer with representatives from Proton Energy Systems, the unit’s manufacturer. With the desire to field test their new product, Proton offered to replace the current electrolyzer cell stack with a newer developmental model, designed for higher efficiency and lower cost. This new cell stack uses a bipolar plate design with a 70% part count reduction. Fewer parts result in an overall reduction in the interfacial resistances of the cell stack, which leads to better performance. In addition to replacing the electrolyzer cell stack, Proton recommended installing a valve to partially bypass the heat exchanger, allowing the electrolyzer to run at a higher temperature, which further increases the efficiency.
The Humboldt County Renewable Energy Secure Community (RESCO) study is off to a strong start. We began the project in November of 2009 and since that time we have developed a single-node electricity dispatch model, gathered data on local renewable energy resources and local electricity demand, researched energy storage technologies, worked with NREL to obtain and customize economic impact assessment models, and collected renewable energy cost data. Using our dispatch model we have examined some preliminary scenarios for renewable energy development in Humboldt County. The figure below shows the output from our model for one such scenario for the month of December. In this particular case, renewable resources, primarily in the form of biomass, wind, and wave power, supply 86% of the electricity demand for the month.
The Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project has been underway since 2004, and after much hard work we are nearing a momentous milestone. In collaboration with SERC and the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, LabAids, Inc. is about to begin offering a commercial version of our HyTEC curriculum. The cornerstone of the curriculum is a bench-top electrolyzer and fuel cell kit that high school students will work with in their chemistry or other physical science courses. With this bench-top kit, students will produce hydrogen via electrolysis and then use the hydrogen to power a small fuel cell and run a fan motor. Students will collect data while running the lab experiment and will use the data to estimate the energy conversion efficiency of the fuel cell.
SERC has been working with Austin Nova and others at the Yurok Tribe to assess the feasibility of developing wind and hydroelectric energy resources on the Yurok Reservation. In the fall of 2008 we installed stream gauging stations on Pecwan and Ke’Pel creeks, and in September of 2009 we installed a 50 meter wind monitoring tower atop the McKinnon Hill ridge. Since then we have collected a substantial amount of wind and hydro data, and we are now prepared to begin analysis of these data to see if energy development projects are feasible.
Though delayed in coming, the final permit for the new Schatz building has been issued. The delay caused work to slow for several weeks, but now things are humming. The rough plumbing and wiring are almost complete and once done, work can begin in earnest on finish work in the interior. Finishing off the roof and exterior will follow closely. We’re meeting next week to choose furniture for our new workspaces. It’s a thrill to tour through the construction site now as the interior framing is complete and it’s easy to see all the spaces delineated and imagine what the finished rooms will be like.
Just as I write this column comes the disheartening news that the Obama administration has called for opening vast tracts of the American seacoast to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. This is in addition to an earlier announcement from the President supporting the expansion of nuclear power generation in the U.S. This is evidently an effort to win political support from oil, gas, and nuclear interests in hopes of getting climate change legislation through Congress before the midterm elections in November.