An effort years in the making came to full fruition on the sunny, breezy morning of September 2, when the Schatz Energy Research Center opened the doors of its new laboratory to the public. Dignitaries including Congressman Mike Thompson and HSU President Rollin Richmond opened the ceremony, speaking to a cheering crowd outside the lab. “Right here you have it all,” said Congressman Thompson. “You have education, you have innovation, and you have renewable energy… This is the future.”
This article was written by Brett Selvig and Ryan Dunne
As part of the Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education project, SERC facilitated internships at Protonex Technology Corporation for the summer of 2011 for two students. After submitting resumes and being interviewed over the phone, we were selected for the ten week positions. Our initial hesitation about leaving our friends and familiar nook in Arcata for Massachusetts was soon outweighed by excitement about getting to work with cutting edge fuel cell technology.
SERC engineers Greg Chapman and Marc Marshall recently traveled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to deliver a custom-built fuel cell test station to Professor Tariq Shamim at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The test station, built using SERC’s new compact, portable form factor, took less than a day to uncrate and prepare for use. Greg and Marc spent the remainder of their visit training Professor Shamim, his colleague Professor Mohamed I. H. Ali, and graduate student Abishek Raj in the use of the test station.
SERC is playing a key role in helping the Yurok Tribe of northern California add renewable energy generation and energy efficiency improvements to their Tribal office buildings. As we reported in our fall 2010 newsletter, the Tribe is installing a solar electric system on their Weitchpec office and implementing energy efficiency upgrades in the Weitchpec building as well as their Klamath office. Measures include air sealing and improved lighting and HVAC controls.
It was a momentous day for the Schatz Center. Our building grand opening was blessed with warm, sunny weather and an enthusiastic turnout. As I said in my remarks that day, when Charles Chamberlin and I met in my office 22 years ago to plan a promising new solar hydrogen project, neither of us had an inkling that it would lead to our wonderful new lab. But here we are—working with caring, passionate colleagues in a state-of-the-art facility. It’s been a great ride.
SERC is continuing its work with Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT) on torrefaction. Torrefaction is the process of heating biomass to 250 – 300 degrees Celcius in the absence of oxygen.
The resulting product, referred to by RFT as “BioCoal,” has a higher energy density and is easier to pelletize than raw biomass. It is also hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb water. These properties make BioCoal easier and less costly to store and transport compared to raw biomass. BioCoal can be used as a feedstock for liquid biofuels or co-fired in a coal power plant, thus replacing fossil fuels with a renewable energy source.