Quality Matters: a new report from Lighting Global

The Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program works to ensure that solar products sold around the globe meet established quality standards for product durability, representation of product performance, and warranty. To obtain quality verification, manufacturers may submit products for testing at laboratories in the Lighting Global network.

Pico-solar products include lanterns and simple systems with a peak PV module power up to 10 watts. These small systems encompass 85% of the global cumulative sales of off-grid solar devices. Although more than 30 million quality assured off-grid solar products have been sold globally over the past eight years, the sales numbers for products that do not undergo quality verification (hence are “non-QV”) is even higher. Field observations and customer experiences indicate that non-QV products typically underperform compared to the standards established by Lighting Global.

In order to ascertain the actual performance of these devices, Lighting Global laboratories recently tested 17 pico-solar non-QV products that are top-sellers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria and Tanzania. Products were purchased direct from market retailers.

Key results:

All 17 evaluated products failed to meet the Lighting Global Quality Standards for pico-PV products.

  • 94% of the tested products fail to meet the Standards due to one or more deficiency that
    affects product durability.
  • 88% of the tested products inaccurately advertise product performance.
  • 88% of the tested products do not include a consumer-facing warranty.
  • 76% of the tested products would require significant changes to product design and
    components to meet the Quality Standards.

The Lighting Global Quality Assurance team issued the report this August as part of the Technical Notes series. Chris Carlsen (a Schatz Center alumnus) led the effort in collaboration with team members from CLASP, the Schatz Center, World Bank Group regional lighting programs, and the Lighting Global network of test labs.

Read the complete report on the Lighting Global website…

Corroded batteries, shown inside and removed from the product

NiMH batteries with leaked electrolyte: When a battery is faulty, of low quality, or stored at a deeply discharged state, the battery cell can rupture and leak electrolyte. The battery pack in this product was not functional, and has leaked corrosive chemicals that damaged adjacent electronic components. – From page 12 of the Quality Matters report

Schatz Energy interviews on KHSU

Catch up with these recent Schatz Energy interviews on the KHSU Magazine:

Measuring Dirty Fuels to Improve Lives
Show host David Reed with Schatz Center’s Nick Lam • April 13, 2018

Resilience Achieved with Blue Lake Rancheria Microgrid
Show host Katie Whiteside with Schatz Center’s Peter Lehman and Jana Ganion of the Blue Lake Rancheria • April 5, 2018

Do Wind Turbines Make Good Neighbors?
Show host Katie Whiteside with visiting SFSS lecturer Joseph Rand • February 22, 2018

Lectures from the Sustainable Futures Speaker Series are also posted to Humboldt Digital Scholar once available.

Sustainable Futures 4/5: Greening the Grid & Improving Resilience

Jana Ganion and Peter Lehman

Renewable energy microgrids are an emerging technology that can support:

  • emergency preparedness
  • job creation
  • greenhouse gas reductions
  • energy cost savings
  • grid reliability
  • and improved resilience across lifeline sectors.

In this week’s Sustainable Futures Speaker Series presentation, Jana Ganion, Sustainability Director for the Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR), will join Peter Lehman, Founding Director of the Schatz Center, to discuss project challenges, first year performance, and the economic and environmental benefits of the ground-breaking BLR microgrid. They will also discuss other related activities in the region, including the upcoming renewable energy microgrid project at the Arcata-Eureka (ACV) airport.

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series at Humboldt State creates interdisciplinary discussion, debate, and collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. Lectures are held on Thursdays from 5:30-7 pm in HSU Founders Hall 118. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, visit our series events page or call (707) 826-4345.

SERC Completes Energy Planning Project for the Trinidad Rancheria

Readers of this newsletter may recall that the Summer 2015 issue contained a short piece about an energy planning project we conducted for the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria. Funded by a grant from The Bureau of Indian Affairs Energy and Mineral Development Program, this multi-faceted project had the overall goal of reducing the tribe’s energy consumption, costs, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the implementation of energy efficiency measures and, possibly, producing renewable energy locally.

The project has since been completed and there is much to report.

Use Assessment
The initial phase of the project entailed a comprehensive assessment of recent energy use for the Rancheria’s multiple commercial facilities including the Cher-Ae-Heights Casino, the Seascape Restaurant, and tribal offices. Available information pertaining to the consumption of electricity, propane, diesel fuel, and gasoline, as well as the equipment involved, was cataloged. CasinoGreen, a PG&E subcontractor specializing in retrofits of Native American owned casinos, was responsible for examining the casino, while Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) covered the remaining facilities. RCEA also completed a comprehensive GHG inventory utilizing an Excel spreadsheet tool they developed in-house.

Results show electricity use in all tribal facilities accounts for 77% of energy costs and over 60% of all GHG emissions. Unsurprisingly, the casino is responsible for over 75% of total energy costs and more than 80% of all GHG emissions, but it is interesting to note that the Seascape Restaurant comes in second at 10% of costs and 9% of GHG.

Efficiency Assessment
Lighting accounts for a substantial portion of all electrical consumption, particularly for the casino, which operates around the clock. As lighting technology has changed considerably in recent years, the energy efficiency of available products greatly exceeds that of the equipment currently in use by the tribe. As a result there are great savings to be had by retrofitting their facilities.

CasinoGreen provided an extensive list of lighting upgrades for the casino, primarily focused on the replacement of existing equipment with new LED lamp, ballast and fixture packages. In total, the changes they suggest could save the tribe an estimated $21,000/year. Available rebates will defray the upfront installation costs considerably while the balance can be financed by PG&E’s Energy Efficiency Retrofit Loan Program. This zero- interest On-Bill Financing program for energy retrofits is paid off via normal monthly payments that credit the money saved due to the new equipment toward the loan balance, which is expected to be paid off in about four years.

In the early stages of the project, RCEA determined that the tribe could save more than $3,000/year by simply changing the Seascape’s PG&E account to a different rate. This was done with alacrity. Further recommendations for lighting and refrigeration efficiency upgrades could save an additional $2,600 annually for the restaurant. As with the casino, installation costs can be covered by rebates and On-Bill Financing. These improvements should pay for themselves in less than four years.

RCEA recommendations for the remaining facilities consist primarily of upgrading interior fluorescent tube lighting systems to LED technology, with some exterior lighting upgrades as well. These changes should have a payback period of just under five years.

Renewables
Following SERC’s examination of the potential for various on-site renewable energy resources, the project team concluded that solar electricity is the most economically viable technology for the tribe to pursue. We recommended three suitable sites for roof top installation: the Trinidad Pier bathroom and water treatment plant, the Trinidad Pier Guest House, and the tribal office building. These sites could accommodate systems of 8.2kW, 2.1kW, and 10.5kW respectively. As the Rancheria has sovereign nation status, they do not pay taxes, which in turn means that they do not qualify for the 30% tax credit or accelerated depreciation benefits available to those in the private sector. As a result, payback periods are noticeably longer (9 – 11 years) than for systems installed by private businesses with substantial tax obligations. Nevertheless, an investment in this technology would pay for itself over a reasonable time frame, and the electrical energy generated by these systems would continue to reduce the Rancheria’s dependence on PG&E long into the future.

Greenhouse Gases
If all of the recommendations discussed in this article were to be implemented, the tribe could reduce its GHG emissions by 65.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This amounts to a nearly 10% reduction of the tribe’s estimated GHG emissions associated with current electricity usage levels.

SERC would like to thank the Trinidad Rancheria for the chance to perform this energy assessment work. We are pleased to have found numerous opportunities for the tribe to reduce energy costs, decrease GHG emissions, and increase energy security. We look forward to supporting the tribe in their future efforts to meet their sustainable energy goals.

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.

Microgrid Project Groundbreaking Ceremony

Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for our Microgrid project was a success – read more about the event and learn about the project goals and partners at the following:

SERC Teams With Trinidad Rancheria on Energy Planning

Jason Soto (left) of Trinidad Rancheria and Jim Zoellick of SERC perform a solar assessment atop the Trinidad Rancheria Seascape Vacation Rental in Trinidad, CA.

Jason Soto (left) of Trinidad Rancheria and Jim Zoellick of SERC perform a solar assessment atop the Trinidad Rancheria Seascape Vacation Rental in Trinidad, CA.

Thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Energy and Mineral Development Program, SERC has begun a project with the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria. The Rancheria owns a portfolio of properties that includes multiple tribal operations buildings, homes, the casino complex and restaurant, the Trinidad Harbor pier and boat launch facilities, as well as the Seascape Restaurant, and its wastewater treatment plant.

Concerned about environmental impacts and ever-increasing energy costs, the Rancheria has hired SERC to perform an energy use assessment to determine ways in which energy consumption can be reduced as well as to examine the feasibility of producing renewable energy locally.  Renewable energy resources being investigated include solar, wind, and biomass.

The Rancheria is taking the long view. Their goal is not only to reduce energy consumption and expenses, but also to substantially reduce the carbon footprint of all of their individual members and businesses while working towards energy independence. The project is set to wrap in December; we will provide a final update in our Winter edition.