A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3Happy New Year! I wish you all a prosperous and enjoyable 2015. The past year has been one of our most productive, and – as we head into a new one – I would like to thank the many people and organizations that made particularly important contributions to our success.

I will start by thanking the entire team here at SERC for their efforts over the past year. We have completed a prodigious amount of work, and everyone has pitched in. I am especially grateful to Allison Hansberry and Carolyn Ortenburger for their administrative and operational support. This year SERC managed more grant money and engaged with more project partners than we ever have in the past. We simply could not have done this without Allison’s leadership and Carolyn’s expert work.

Leading SERC in partnership with Peter Lehman and Charles Chamberlin is a pleasure and an honor. They have made immense contributions to the Center and the clean energy field since SERC was founded in 1989. Other talented faculty colleagues who have made crucial contributions to SERC’s work this year include David Vernon, Kevin Fingerman, Han Sup Han, Steve Hackett, and Laurie Richmond. Additionally, we are in the process of hiring a new faculty member for a joint Environmental Resources Engineering Department/SERC position and look forward to welcoming her or him to campus later this year.

Among SERC staff members, Jim Zoellick and Greg Chapman deserve special thanks for their leadership and efforts on the RePower Humboldt project. Jim has worked tirelessly as SERC’s project manager, and Greg has led the design and installation of the biomass energy system. Marc Marshall, Mark Rocheleau, Mark Severy, and Andy Harris have also made key contributions to this project. We are grateful to our project partners, including especially the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and the Blue Lake Rancheria. I would also like to congratulate the Blue Lake Rancheria for being recognized by the White House and the U.S. Department of Energy as a Climate Action Champion. The Rancheria was one of only 16 U.S. communities that received this honor.

I am grateful to Colin Sheppard for his leadership and analytical work over the past year. He has helped SERC develop a robust portfolio of clean transportation work related to infrastructure development for electric vehicles while also engaging in projects ranging from wave energy development analysis to regional renewable energy deployment. Colin has also been a proposal-writing powerhouse.  Kevin Fingerman, Andy Harris, Jim Zoellick, Dave Carter, and Manan Parikh have also played vital roles in our clean transportation work.

In the six months that Dave Carter has been with us, he has expertly managed our efforts on the Waste to Wisdom biomass energy project, a broad collaboration under the leadership of Dr. Han Sup Han of HSU’s Forestry Department. Dave has also contributed substantively to a number of SERC’s clean transportation projects and proposal-writing efforts. Mark Severy, Marc Marshall, David Vernon, and Richard Engel also played significant roles in SERC’s work on Waste to Wisdom this year. Another innovative biomass energy effort at SERC involves the use of biomass feedstock to generate hydrogen fuel through a catalytic reformation process. David Vernon leads this work, with key contributions from Mark Severy and Billy Karis.

Our entire off-grid energy team has worked hard all year on our efforts to improve energy access in Africa and Asia as part of the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global, Lighting Africa, and Lighting Asia programs and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Global LEAP initiative. I owe Meg Harper special thanks for her leadership on a World Bank funded effort to develop test methods and quality standards for off-grid solar home systems. Kristen Radecsky has also demonstrated leadership through her continued management of product testing for the Lighting Global quality assurance program. Many others have contributed substantially to this work over the past year, including Ga Rick Lee, Tom Quetchenbach, Malini Kannan, Kyle Palmer, Erik Page, Kevin Gauna, Peter Alstone, Chris Carlsen, Brendon Mendonça, Robert Hosbach, John Hunter, Ian Hunter, Patricia Lai, Nick Bryant, Amit Khare, Mark Rocheleau, Janoah Osborne, Greg Pfotenhauer, and Asif Hassan. Going forward, we are excited to welcome Richa Goyal to our energy access team in the very near future.

SERC’s education and outreach activities continued in 2014 under Allison Hansberry’s leadership. We reached over 1,700 people in 2014, including students in K-12 schools, HSU students, and community members. Much of this work was carried out by SERC docents, in particular Yaad Rana, Greg Pfotenhauer, and Robo Okumo. We all appreciate the important contributions that this work makes to our community and to the effort to increase public understanding of clean energy technologies.

Our work at SERC is truly a team effort, both within the Center and beyond. We are thankful for the support we receive from Rhea Williamson, Steve Karp, and the entire team at the HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation. We also appreciate the HSU Advancement Foundation’s management of assets that are invested on behalf of SERC.
I would also like to thank the eight members of the SERC Advisory Board for their important contributions to SERC over the past year. We look forward to continued productive engagement in 2015.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank our many collaborators and funders for their engagement and support. Beyond HSU, some of our key partner organizations over the past year included the Redwood Coast Energy Authority; the Blue Lake Rancheria; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems; the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association; the Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program; the Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Forest Service; Biochar Solutions Incorporated; the Pellet Fuels Institute; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; and the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council. Our largest funders over the past year included (in no particular order) the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the California Energy Commission.

We appreciate the trust, support, and collaboration of all of these partners, and look forward to doing more good work together in 2015.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3We were pleased to welcome HSU’s new president, Lisa Rossbacher, to SERC last week for a tour and meetings with some of our staff. We look forward to working under her leadership in the years to come.

During President Rossbacher’s visit, SERC Founding Director Peter Lehman and I provided a brief account of SERC’s 25-year history and a summary of our current portfolio of projects. She then met with faculty and staff associated with SERC during her tour. My thanks go to everyone from our team who participated in the session for their professional and engaging presentations.

While preparing remarks for the meetings with the President, I was – once again – struck by the scope and diversity of SERC’s clean energy project work. That same diversity is represented in this newsletter, which includes coverage of wave energy on the North Coast, electric vehicle infrastructure planning for the city of Delhi in India, field research about off-grid solar lighting and energy systems in Kenya, and alternative fuels for transportation in Northern California.

As we expand our work, we also need to bring in new team members. I am happy to welcome Kyle Palmer, Malini Kannan, and Asif Hassan to SERC. Kyle and Malini were both hired to work on the lighting lab team, where they will engage in testing off-grid lighting and energy products in the context of SERC’s role as technical lead for the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program. Kyle, an alumnus of the Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) program at HSU, is re-joining SERC after several years of independent work. Malini came to us from UC San Diego, where she earned a BS in environmental engineering. Asif, who came to HSU this fall as a master’s student in the Energy Technology and Policy (ETaP) program, is the Schatz Energy Fellowship recipient for 2014. He has a BS in electrical and electronic engineering from Islamic University of Technology in Bangladesh. It is great to have all three of them on our team.

I will close with a reminder that SERC and the ERE department at HSU are jointly conducting a search for a new tenure track faculty position. The selected candidate will divide time between teaching in the ERE department and conducting research at SERC. Applications are due on October 31, 2014. The expected start date is August 2015. Additional details are available here. Please pass this announcement on to anyone who might be interested to apply.

Goodbye to you all until next time.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3Happy summer from sunny northern California. I am pleased to let you all know that SERC and the Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) department at Humboldt State University (HSU) are jointly conducting a search for a new tenure track faculty position. The person hired for the job will divide her or his time between teaching in the ERE department and conducting research at SERC. This is a fantastic opportunity for the right person, and we look forward to bringing a new, dynamic faculty member on board. See the announcement in this newsletter for additional vacancy details.

Speaking of new team members, we are pleased to welcome four new people to SERC. Our most recent addition is Ga Rick Lee, a senior energy analyst from Australia. Ga Rick will work on our energy access projects, including especially our projects related to quality assurance for off-grid lighting and energy systems for rural electrification in Asia and Africa. Much of our work in this area is linked to the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global, Lighting Africa, and Lighting Asia initiatives. Ga Rick worked most recently for the Australian Red Cross in the Philippines, and he brings considerable experience and expertise to our already strong energy access team. In addition, we have hired two HSU engineering students, Greg Pfotenhauer and Janoah Osborne, to work as research assistants on our energy access projects. Their efforts are focused on testing off-grid lighting products and other associated laboratory tasks. We are also very pleased to welcome Manan Parikh to SERC. Manan is working as a research assistant on work focused on assessment of the potential to expand the use of alternative transportation fuels in five northern California counties. These four new team members are in addition to David Carter, who, as I mentioned in our spring newsletter, joined SERC as a senior research engineer in May. We are very pleased to have all of these new people, and their expertise and enthusiasm, on board.

I will close by thanking everyone who was able to join us in celebrating our 25th Anniversary in May. We had a great celebration, and it was good to see many familiar faces and long time friends at the event. A special thanks goes also to the team from SERC who led the effort to organize the event. I appreciate all the good work that went into the preparations.

Goodbye to you all until next time.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3Spring is a time of renewal and celebration. Here at SERC, we have much to celebrate as we reach our 25th anniversary. I joined SERC as a graduate student in 1993, a few years after it was founded. When I look back, I am amazed at all that this Center has accomplished. It is especially gratifying to review the list of SERC alumni and to reflect on where they are now. To date, 145 people have either worked or volunteered at SERC, and many are now working in the clean energy field. Their collective activities and accomplishments have made a real difference in the world. It will be great to see all of the alumni who can make it to the anniversary party on May 16.

Speaking of SERC alumni, two key SERC staff members are about to make the transition. Robert Hosbach, an integral member of our energy access and off-grid lighting team, has accepted a position working in the energy efficient appliance standards group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Richard Engel, a senior research engineer who has been with SERC for over 14 years, is also moving on. Both will be deeply missed, and we wish them well on the next steps in their journey.

Although they cannot be replaced, we are in the process of hiring several new team members. We are excited to be able to announce that Dave Carter has accepted our offer to join SERC as a senior research engineer. Dave is a licensed civil engineer with almost a decade of professional experience. He is also an alumnus of SERC, having worked here as a student and just after his graduation back in 2004 and 2005. We are also in the process of hiring for four other positions. We are selecting candidates for two staff positions and one student position associated with the Lighting Global program and other activities related to energy access for low-income people living in off-grid areas. We are also reviewing applications for a position focused on alternative fuels for transportation.

I will close by thanking our Advisory Board for their input during a very productive meeting on April 11. This year’s meeting was our second on-campus session, and we are very pleased with the support and guidance that the board is providing. We are already looking forward to the next meeting.

Goodbye until next time.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3Happy New Year! I hope that 2014 is off to a good start for you all. The year promises to be a busy and productive one for the team at SERC. We have an exciting lineup of clean energy projects and activities across a number of subject areas.

In the energy access arena, we are in the final stage of negotiating a three-year, $1.6 million contract with the International Finance Corporation to continue our work as the technical lead for quality assurance for the Lighting Global initiative. Lighting Global is associated with the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs, which support the development of markets for modern off-grid lighting and energy products. Under our contract, we will continue to manage the program’s quality assurance testing and verification program for off-grid lighting products. We will also lead a strategic effort to update and expand the program, conduct laboratory and field research related to the effort, and engage with key industry stakeholders. Our work to date for IFC has helped support rapid expansion of the use of solar charged off-grid lighting and energy systems. For example, over 2.7 million off-grid LED lights that were quality assured through the program have been sold in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2009, and sales have been doubling annually. Sales in South Asian countries such as India are also high. We look forward to our continued participation in the effort to expand access to clean and affordable energy for people without access to grid power in the years to come.

We will be similarly busy in the biomass energy arena. First, we are working closely with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) and the Blue Lake Rancheria on a project involving the development of a cutting edge biomass-fueled power system to be installed at the Rancheria. The system involves a gasifier that converts woody biomass fuel into a hydrogen-rich syngas, which is, in turn, processed for use in a proton exchange membrane fuel cell. This year is a pivotal one for the effort, as we aim to make considerable progress toward the goal of having an operational system in 2015. We will also continue work on the conversion of biomass into useful fuels and other valuable products using technologies such as gasification, torrefaction and densification. We are currently finishing up one project in this area, and anticipate starting a significant new project in the coming months (details forthcoming).

We also have several projects in hand on the clean transportation front, including analyses related to electric vehicle infrastructure planning for Humboldt County, several other counties in the northern Central Valley of California, and the city of New Delhi. We learned in December that a $300K alternative transportation planning project (including electric vehicles and other alternative fuels) that we are conducting in partnership with RCEA and other regional partners was funded by the California Energy Commission. Special thanks go to Jim Zoellick, Colin Sheppard and Kevin Fingerman of SERC and Matthew Marshall, Dana Boudreau, and Jerome Carman of RCEA for leading that proposal development effort. We may have even more work in this area soon, as we learn the outcome of additional submitted proposals.

Last, but certainly not least, we will participate in a feasibility analysis for the development of a wave energy technology test site in California in collaboration with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a number of additional partners, including local partners RCEA, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, and HT Harvey and Associates. The analysis, which is a $750K effort funded by U.S. Department of Energy, involves consideration of sites near Humboldt Bay and San Luis Obispo.

I can say with confidence that 2014 will not be a dull one here at SERC. We are holding on to our hats. Goodbye until next time.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3We have completed the transition from summer to fall here in far northern California, and – while it has been clear and sunny for the past few days – we recently had the first heavy rainstorm of the season. As the seasons change, we remain busy at SERC with a diverse portfolio of clean energy projects. The selection of articles in this newsletter reflects this diversity.

In the lead article, Richard Engel reports on a project that is in line with our broader work aimed at enabling energy access in off-grid areas ranging from South Asia to East Africa. We are also happy to report on recent progress in our biomass energy collaboration with Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT). We look forward to deepening our work with RFT and others in the field as we expand our efforts in this arena.

Several other articles reflect our long tradition of work related to clean transportation. We were pleased to be in a position to fuel the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that SERC alum Anand Gopal and his wife Liz Pimentel drove up from the Bay Area. We hope this event will be the first of many such occurrences made possible by our hydrogen vehicle fueling station.

We are also pleased to extend our plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging infrastructure planning work from California to India. The work in New Delhi, which involves collaboration with Anand Gopal and colleagues from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will require analysis in a new and complex setting involving very different driving patterns and electricity infrastructure. We at SERC always like to get involved in new and challenging work, and we hope to contribute meaningfully to the wider effort to enable cleaner transportation systems in New Delhi and beyond.

I will close by welcoming several new members to the SERC team. This August, Nick Bryant of Washington state and Amit Khare of New Delhi, India started work at SERC. They are also pursuing master’s degrees in the Energy Technology and Policy (ETaP) program here at HSU. We also have three additions to our docent team, including Yaad Rana, Onomewerike “Robo” Okumo, and Jake Coniglione. All are undergraduate students in the Environmental Resources Engineering program. It is great to have these students on board.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3Activities on the Humboldt State campus have slowed down for the summer, but we are still very busy here at SERC. The articles in this newsletter highlight some of our current activity. As Colin Sheppard’s article indicates, we have been engaged in analysis related to planning for plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) infrastructure development in Humboldt County. We are also working on a similar analysis for three other northern California counties and are exploring other project possibilities.  All of this work fits into SERC’s longstanding tradition of enabling expanded use of clean transportation technology in the U.S. and beyond.

In this issue we also describe two new biomass energy efforts at SERC. One of these projects, involving torrefaction technology, is motivated by a desire to reduce the cost of transporting biomass fuel from the forest to end-use sites. The second effort explores conversion of biomass-derived sugars into hydrogen, which can then be injected into engines to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. These projects represent important progress in SERC’s bio-energy research, and, in both cases, we are grateful for funding support from the California Energy Commission (CEC).  We will start additional bio-energy work soon on a $1.75M CEC-funded project involving collaboration with the Blue Lake Rancheria, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, and Ballard Power Systems.

We also remain busy on the international front. Our work with the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs continues to involve laboratory, field, and policy activities. In the lab this summer, we are grateful to have participation by student assistants Melissa Lancaster and John Hunter. Recent activities have taken team members to Kenya, Tanzania, India, and Bangladesh. Additionally, last month I attended meetings hosted by the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) in Munich, Germany on the sidelines of Intersolar-Europe. As reported in our last newsletter, we are also working on a feasibility analysis and design for solar powered mini-grids in India. Two members of our team, Richard Engel and Brendon Mendonça, traveled to India last month as part of this effort.

Last but not least, we recently received good news related to the cost of education for some of our graduate students. Over the years, a number of graduate students from the Energy Technology and Policy (ETaP) and Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) options of the Environmental Systems (ES) Graduate Program have worked at SERC. The ES Graduate Program was recently accepted by the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which means that students from eligible states will be able to attend HSU at a cost equivalent to the rate for California residents. This makes the ETaP and ERE graduate program options much more affordable for students from these states. This is great for SERC, as it will help us recruit talented students from western states such as Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, and others. More information is available on the ETaP and ERE graduate program websites. Goodbye until next time.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3On April 5th, SERC hosted the first meeting of its new Advisory Board. The formation of the board represents an important milestone for our center. The board is a dynamic group with deep experience in the clean energy sector, and they are well positioned to help us enhance our ability to achieve our mission of promoting clean and renewable energy.

If renewable energy is to make a difference in addressing the major environmental problems of our times, it must continue to move from the margins into the mainstream. During the board meeting, the SERC team reported on the recently completed RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan, which confirms that Humboldt County is well positioned to play a leading role in this effort. As senior research engineer Jim Zoellick reports in this issue, the strategic plan includes an analysis of the potential to dramatically scale up the use of renewable energy in Humboldt County.

The results are interesting and promising. They indicate that Humboldt County can meet 75% or more of its electricity needs and a substantial percentage of its transportation and heating requirements by 2030 using renewable energy at only a modest increase in cost. Meeting these targets would result in reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are on the order of 35% to 45% relative to the expected business-as-usual trajectory.

If successful, an effort to achieve these goals would have significance that goes well beyond Humboldt County. Back in 2009, President Obama set a target of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 83% by 2050 (relative to 2005 baseline emissions).  For the country to have a chance to meet that target, some regions need to lead the way by achieving substantial reductions much earlier. The challenge is a big one, and Humboldt County has the renewable energy resource base, prior track record, and environmental ethic to play a leadership role. The RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan provides a vision and a roadmap that we can use to move forward. And, as Jim explains, some next step activities are already underway in the form of a CEC funded project involving collaboration between SERC, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, and the Blue Lake Rancheria.

The board also heard about SERC’s education and outreach work. Over the past year, SERC’s clean energy education programs have reached over 1,000 students and community members. In addition to activities in schools and university classes, SERC provides mentorship to students working to reduce the environmental impact of energy use on the Humboldt State campus through projects funded by the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund (HEIF).  In this issue, senior research engineer Richard Engel writes about our work to support HEIF projects, one of the latest efforts in SERC’s longstanding tradition of training and mentoring students.

The board was very interested in SERC’s international project portfolio, including our work in support of quality assurance for off-grid lighting in Africa and Asia.  In this newsletter, research engineer Kristen Radecsky recounts the recent successful technical training workshop that she helped lead for the Solar Lighting Laboratory at TERI University in New Delhi, India. This work is part of a broader effort associated with the Lighting Asia and Lighting Africa initiatives to develop a network of laboratories which can evaluate the quality and performance of off-grid lighting and energy systems that provide critical energy services to people in rural areas of Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

Also in this issue, Richard reports about a new international project related to the use of solar powered mini-grids for rural electrification in India. The effort involves collaboration with partners including E3 and Black & Veatch.

I will close by extending a special thanks to our Advisory Board for taking the time to serve on our behalf. It was a pleasure having them here at SERC, and I look forward to more productive sessions over the coming years. Goodbye until next time.

Speaker Series: Sheri Woo and Carol Rische on Mad River Water Use Options

We are pleased to announce Carol Rische and Sheri Woo as the next presenters in the spring 2013 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Carol and Sheri will speak on Thursday, April 11 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Behavior and Sciences Building room 166 (BSS 166) on the HSU campus. The title of their talk is “Evaluating Mad River Water Use
Options: A Local Issue with Regional Impacts.”

Sheri Woo is a licensed civil engineer who writes environmental science content. She prepares permitting documents with HT Harvey & Associates, is a Board Director of the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, holds shares in a local environmental firm, and is chair of the ArMack Orchestra parent committee (because, she says, in Humboldt
County, one can’t have too many jobs).

Carol Rische is a registered professional engineer who joined the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) in 1996. She was appointed General Manager in March 2000. Prior to working at HBMWD, she was employed at PG&E for 12 years, initially in engineering and then in management.

Carol and Sheri’s talk focuses on a critically important set of water resource issues for Humboldt County and the wider region. Economic changes in the Humboldt Bay Region, including the closure of some high water consumption industries such as pulp mills, are forcing planners and the broader community to rethink water management in the Mad River watershed. As Carol and Sheri will explain, decisions made over the coming years could have far reaching implications. If you are interested in resource issues and economic development in Humboldt County, this is not a talk that you will want to miss.

Speaker Series: Jonathan Woolley on Radically Efficient Design for Zero Net Energy Buildings

We are pleased to announce Jonathan Woolley of UC Davis as the next presenter in the spring 2013 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Jonathan will speak on Thursday, March 28 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Behavior and Sciences Building room 166 (BSS 166) on the HSU campus. The title of his talk is “Radically Efficient Design for Zero Net Energy Buildings.”

Jonathan Woolley is an Associate Engineer with the Western Cooling Efficiency Center at the University of California Davis. Woolley’s building science research focuses on Zero Net Energy Buildings using both passive techniques and energy efficient mechanical systems. Woolley is involved in design, development and control of energy efficient mechanical systems with full-scale demonstration and evaluation in commercial and residential buildings.

Mr. Woolley will present about the integrative design of a Zero Net Energy home in Davis, CA that will generate enough electricity on site to cover household needs, and provide energy for an electric vehicle. The home employs many innovative design techniques including a highly-insulated building envelope, radiant heating and cooling, grey water heat recovery, passive ventilation, very high efficiency nighttime cooling strategies, and multi-function mechanical systems to provide heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. The home is slated for construction in 2013 and will support California’s goals for Zero Net Energy residential construction by 2020.

We hope that you will join us for the talk.