SERC’s Off-grid Solar Testing Laboratory Gains International Recognition

ANAB-Test-Lab-2CSERC recently became accredited under ISO/IEC 17025, the single most important standard for testing laboratories around the world. This accreditation recognizes SERC’s technical competence to perform laboratory testing and produce precise and accurate test results. Specifically, SERC is accredited to carry out electrical and photometric testing of off-grid solar lighting products. This accreditation may be expanded in the future to include off-grid solar home systems and other technologies.

SERC leads the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global Quality Assurance program for off-grid solar lighting products, and tests dozens of these products each year. This new accreditation enables our test results for quality-assured, off-grid solar lighting products to be recognized by governments around the world, easing the importation of these products into countries that greatly need them. This in turn will increase access to these products for the many people in developing countries who currently rely on dangerous, unhealthy, expensive and dim kerosene lighting.

To become accredited under ISO/IEC 17025, we undertook a six-month process to formalize and update our laboratory quality management system. This included putting comprehensive policies and procedures and rigorous quality control practices in place, and training staff to follow these. All of our relevant equipment was also sent for calibration to ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories to ensure that we produce the most precise and accurate results possible.

SERC was then assessed by ANAB, our ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation body. For two days in December, a visiting assessor audited our policies and procedures and witnessed testing conducted by SERC staff. After the visit, the assessor provided us with a list of non-conformities to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard, which we quickly addressed. As a result, our accreditation certificate was issued on January 8, adding SERC to the ranks of internationally recognized test laboratories.

SERC Delivers Fuel Cell Test Station to Purdue University

In early December, Marc Marshall and I travelled to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana to install and train staff in the use of SERC’s first combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell test station. CHP is also known as cogeneration. As reported in our Summer 2015 newsletter, the station was custom built for Professor Neera Jain in Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering.

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Left to right: Greg Chapman, Professor Neera Jain, graduate students Austin Nash and Rian Browne, and Marc Marshall pose with the newly installed test station.

The test station was designed so that Neera and her engineering students can study the electrical and thermal characteristics of this fuel cell cogeneration system in a simulated residential application. A Ballard fuel cell stack produces the electrical power while waste heat from the stack is transferred to a domestic hot water tank via the fuel cell cooling water system. Custom software allows the researchers to simulate the electrical and domestic hot water use typical of a single-family home. By measuring performance in various conditions, Neera and her students will be able to develop control algorithms to optimize system efficiency.

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Greg Chapman, project manager for the CHP fuel cell test station, poses with the newly installed test station.

Household fuel cell cogeneration systems have been field tested over the last few years and are making their way into the market, mainly in Japan and Germany. Panasonic launched its fourth generation fuel cell CHP model in 2015 and has installed over 10,000 units in Japan. Callux continues field-testing in Germany, and is targeting over 500 installed units by mid-2016. Both the Panasonic and Callux cogeneration systems convert natural gas to hydrogen in a reformer before supplying the fuel cell. It will be interesting to follow the progress of these high efficiency and reliable home energy systems as they enter the market.