A flurry of activity continues on the Humboldt County Renewable Energy Secure Community (RESCO) project. We have completed the bulk of our engineering and economic analyses and are preparing interim project reports on each of these tasks. Key lessons learned from our work to date are: (1) we can meet a large portion of our energy needs using local renewable energy resources; (2) we can do this at a modest overall cost increase; (3) we can greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; and (4) renewable energy development will result in a substantial net increase in local jobs and economic output.
We are excited to announce that the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project’s high school chemistry module titled, Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells was published by project partner Lab-Aids, Inc. in March 2011 (see the cover, below). The module is comprised of six activities and introduces students to hydrogen and fuel cells in the context of energy for transportation.
The publication of the module is the culmination of six years of hard work between SERC and Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS). There have been many meetings, teacher training workshops, and iterations with Barbara Nagle and her colleagues at LHS. It’s rewarding to see our curriculum published and available to high school students across the country.
On March 10th of this year, the second Stack-Outside-the-Box™ (SOtB™) that SERC has produced was delivered to Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina. Receiving the unit was Ron Poor, head of the Electronics Engineering Technology program. Last year, seeking to include the concepts of hydrogen based renewable energy in the curriculum, Ron secured a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the purchase of this bench-top fuel cell power system. “We’ve never seen Ron so excited,” the electronics and computer technology students said when the SOtB™ arrived; they were quoted in the hometown Sylva Herald newspaper.
This is the first director’s column written in my new office in our new Schatz lab. It’s just wonderful to be in this modern, well-designed building that will certainly increase our productivity and has already made us proud. You can read about some of the details and see a picture in the building update in this issue.
But while the Schatz Center has been upgraded, the U.S. hydrogen and fuel cell technology program has fallen from sight. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has suggested that the hydrogen program be zeroed out in the next DOE budget. There is plenty of funding for battery research and plug-in hybrids, but not a penny for fuel cell vehicles. Secretary Chu tried to do this in last year’s budget cycle but was rebuffed by a strong coalition of legislators who insisted that the funding be restored.
SERC’s recently launched collaboration with biomass energy startup Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT) reached an important milestone on April 7, when a group of U.S. Forest Service officials, professional foresters, and biomass specialists from across the country convened at SERC for a Torrefaction Research, Development, and Commercialization Meeting.
The meeting included a demonstration of RFT’s prototype wood torrefier that had been recently moved to SERC. Many of the meeting participants, including RFT’s technical and business leadership team, braved late-season storms and a major landslide to make the trek up from the Bay Area.