SERC has recently received a Caltrans grant to increase the delivery pressure capacity of the HSU hydrogen fueling station. Currently the station stores hydrogen gas at 420 bar (6,000 pounds per square inch), and can fill a vehicle’s tank to 350 bar (5,000 psi). The upgrade will allow for fueling up to 700 bar (10,000 psi). Newer fuel cell vehicles, such as the Toyota FCHV-adv currently on loan at HSU from UC Berkeley, have storage tanks rated for 700 bar storage, which almost doubles the amount of hydrogen that can be stored onboard.
Here at SERC we are continuing our work supporting the Lighting Africa program, a joint IFC-World Bank initiative to catalyze markets for good quality off-grid lighting in the developing world. Over the last year, SERC has played a key role coordinating the Quality Assurance portion of the program, including generating and interpreting product test results, writing test methods, meeting with international policy-makers, and too many other tasks to list here. Some key breakthroughs and activities over the last few months have been:
- Developing a new method for measuring total lumen output for lighting devices that only requires $2,000 in equipment – compared to the $30,000 often required for the necessary hardware. This will allow startup manufacturers and low-budget laboratories (like the ones in some developing countries) to measure the true light output of their devices without needing to send them out for expensive testing.
- Contributing to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change “Small-scale methodology AMS-III.AR,” which allows off-grid lighting systems to receive credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helps reduce the up front cost of improved lighting to end-users.
- Traveling to Munich and Nairobi to meet with policymakers and representatives from other international programs and harmonize their activities with the Lighting Africa Quality Assurance framework, which is becoming a global model in the off-grid lighting world.
Since 2009, SERC’s Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project, with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has produced over 50 hydrogen experiment kits that have been made available on loan to engineering departments at University of California and California State University campuses. Each kit includes an electrolyzer for generating hydrogen, a fuel cell for generating electricity with the hydrogen, and instruments for making measurements of system efficiency. SERC has developed a set of lab activities that incorporate the kit.
I just returned from the Photovoltaic Specialists’ Conference in Seattle; it was the 50th year anniversary of the conference. The first PVSC that I attended was in 1987 when Charles Chamberlin and I reported on PV module tests in Humboldt County.
What a difference! The conference is now huge, with thousands of attendees, and the PV industry is mature and sophisticated. Total worldwide installations of PVs have now reached 40 GW and as one speaker reported, if PV growth stays on the historical path that it has maintained for the last 30 years, total installed PVs will reach 1000 GW by 2020. At that level, PVs will contribute about 10-15% of the world’s total electricity generation. That’s amazing and heartening progress.
For over two years, a dedicated group of HSU students and advisors has been working on the design of a “GridShare” device intended to reduce the occurrence of brownouts on power-limited mini-electric grids. Last year, after winning a grant through the EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Student Design Contest, three of us traveled to Bhutan to assess the village of Rukubji as a site to perform a pilot installation of our GridShares.
HSU engineering graduate student Nicholas Riedel is spending the summer in El Salvador, studying how energy is used on a university campus. Nicholas is conducting a broad-scale campus energy audit at Universidad Don Bosco and intends to compare and contrast energy efficiency opportunities in this tropical setting in a developing country with lessons previously learned about energy management at HSU. Mentoring for Nicholas’s efforts comes from SERC senior research engineer Richard Engel, who served as a Fulbright scholar at UDB in 2010. Nicholas’s visit to UDB is the first inter-campus exchange under an HSU-UDB cooperation agreement that grew out of Richard’s stay at UDB.