A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

The past couple of months have been an exciting time at the lab.  As Colin Sheppard reports in his article about wind energy in Humboldt County, SERC—and I personally—have been caught up in an intense and politically charged debate about ShellWind’s proposed 50 MW wind farm on Bear River Ridge.  Though our work in renewable energy has always had political overtones, never before have we been thrust into the political limelight.  It’s been an eye-opener for me.

In many ways, ShellWind’s proposal to build the wind farm seems like a no-brainer.  When complete, it will mean a substantial increase in renewable energy generation in Humboldt County and it will make us more energy secure.  It will mean local economic development and jobs.  It will reduce greenhouse gases.  Who could be against that?

It turns out many people can.  The citizens of Ferndale and Petrolia have come out in force to oppose the project.  As Colin notes, they have objected to the road building, the environmental impacts, the disruptive nature of big turbines in their pastoral country, and doing business with a large, multi-national corporation that they don’t trust.  Editorials have appeared in our local paper entitled, “I don’t want ShellWind in my backyard,” and “NIMBY and proud of it.”  Because we’ve written and spoken in favor of the project, some have called us out for “attacking” local citizens and their interests.  It’s an unfamiliar situation for me personally and for the lab.

The good news is that we’ve been able to start a civil dialogue with some of the project’s opponents that I hope will allow cooler heads to prevail.  But how this will play out is anyone’s guess.  We’ll keep you informed in subsequent newsletters.

In other, calmer news, Andrea Alstone reports on progress in upgrading our hydrogen station so that we can achieve 700 bar refueling.  That will mean we can drive our Toyota fuel cell car to the Bay Area, refuel at the AC Transit or Berkeley station, and drive home.  Since we travel to the Bay Area frequently, this will be the first long distance fuel cell commute in the world.  Richard Engel reports on our efforts to take our hydrogen/fuel cell curriculum to a national audience through an NSF grant.  Finally, Jim Zoellick reports on our RESCO project that is coming to fruition with the publication of our strategic renewable energy plan for Humboldt County.

Last newsletter, written in December, I wrote about the sunniest fall and early winter ever.  Now our more usual winter weather has returned with a vengeance.  It’s pouring as I write this and flood warnings are posted.  As everything here in Humboldt turns electric green, I wish you some refreshing spring rain and flowers to come.

About Peter Lehman

Director of SERC and a professor of Environmental Resources Engineering at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. Dr. Lehman received a B.S. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley where he conducted research on the aerochemistry of photochemical air pollution. Before coming to HSU, he has been a member of the faculties of Sacramento State University; California State University, Northridge; and Deep Springs College. While at HSU, Dr. Lehman has served as chair of the Environmental Resources Engineering Department, co-chair of the International Development Technology masters program, and faculty advisor to the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology. His research interests include renewable energy systems, especially solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies. Dr. Lehman's work at the Schatz Center includes the development of solar hydrogen generation systems, development and production of fuel cell personal utility and neighborhood electric vehicles, and research and production of proton exchange membrane fuel cells. Most recently, the Center is involved in integrating electrolyzers into complete hydrogen generation and dispensing facilities, and developing and producing fuel cell systems for telecommunications, portable power and uninterruptible power supply applications.