RePowering Humboldt with Community Scale Renewable Energy

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In March of this year, along with our partner, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), we completed the three-year RePower Humboldt project funded by the California Energy Commission (CEC). A key deliverable, the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan, identified future energy scenarios for Humboldt County in which local renewable energy resources could provide over 75 percent of local electricity needs and a significant portion of heating and transportation energy needs by 2030. The plan pinpoints biomass and wind energy as key resources. In addition, large-scale adoption of plug-in electric vehicles and heat pumps was found to be critical to the cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, the RePower Humboldt team is looking for opportunities to put the plan into action.

At our final project review meeting in Sacramento, CEC project manager Mike Sokol mentioned how impressed the CEC has been with the quality of our work. Now they have backed up this praise with a proposed award to begin implementing the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan.  The follow-on grant, a $1.75 million award, again partners SERC with RCEA and also includes the Blue Lake Rancheria as a new project partner. Our proposal was ranked third among 30 submissions and was one of only four awards in our research area.

The new project, called Repowering Humboldt with Community Scale Renewable Energy, is expected to begin in June of 2013 and will run through March of 2015. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate and validate key aspects of the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan.  The project will include two main elements: SERC will lead the design and installation of a first-of-its-kind woody biomass gasifier and fuel cell power system, and RCEA will implement a community-based energy upgrade program.

The biomass energy system will be installed at the Blue Lake Rancheria casino and hotel where it will supply about a third of the electric power needs. It will feature a Proton Power gasifier that turns sawdust-sized woody biomass into hydrogen fuel, and a 175-kW Ballard fuel cell that generates electricity from hydrogen. Waste heat from the system will be used to meet hot water needs. We aim to achieve a biomass-to-electricity efficiency double that of a comparable-scale, conventional steam power plant. If successful, this project could open up a new market for distributed-scale, biomass combined heat and power systems.

The energy upgrade component will focus on services for residences and businesses in the Mad River valley community (City of Blue Lake, Blue Lake Rancheria, and surrounding areas), including energy efficiency, solar energy systems, heat pumps, and the installation of two electric vehicle charging stations. This energy upgrade will demonstrate a comprehensive, community-based energy services model that can be replicated throughout the state.

The RePowering Humboldt with Community Scale Renewable Energy project is an exciting effort that will help move Humboldt County toward a secure energy future. Watch for updates in future newsletters as the project unfolds.

All project documents for the RePower Humboldt project, including the strategic plan, a regulatory and policy guide on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and other technical reports and memos can be accessed on SERC’s web page here.

Photo credit: Malene Thyssen (wave) and Bin vim Garten (vehicle).

RePower Humboldt Plan Pivots on Local Renewable Resources

SERC and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) have unveiled their joint RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan, spelling out how local renewable resources can be used to meet the majority of Humboldt County’s electricity needs and a large portion of its transportation and heating energy needs as well.  The plan lays out an array of opportunities and recommends a set of actions that would create jobs, stimulate the local economy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase local energy security.

The RePower Humboldt plan is the result of more than two years of research, analysis and community involvement.  According to Matthew Marshall, Executive Director of RCEA, “renewable energy development has the potential to provide significant economic, environmental and energy security benefits to our region.  We’re excited to share the plan with the community and begin a dialog about our options moving forward.”

SERC Director Arne Jacobson said, “If California is to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, which call for an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050, we will need some regions to lead the way by scaling up clean energy use decades earlier. Humboldt County has the opportunity to serve as a positive example in this regard, and the RePower Humboldt plan can act as a road map to get us there.”
Key recommendations in the plan include:

• Aggressively pursue cost-effective energy efficiency   opportunities

• Support responsible wind energy development.

• Expand the use of biomass energy that is consistent with forest restoration needs and priorities.

• Develop infrastructure for and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

• Encourage development of distributed energy installations.

• Pursue options for local development and ownership of renewable energy projects, as well as local purchase of the power generated.

• Form an energy leadership group to move the plan forward.

 

A public draft of the plan is now available and the community is encouraged to review it and provide feedback, either on-line at www.redwoodenergy.org/programs/repower or www.schatzlab.org/repower or in-person at the RCEA, 517 5th Street, Eureka, 707-269-1700.

Public comment on the plan will be accepted through October 26th for incorporation in a final version.

Cover page of the draft RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan

Note: RePower Humboldt is the result of work conducted under the Humboldt County Renewable Energy Secure Community (RESCO) project. The RePower Humboldt name, rather than RESCO, will be used to refer to this effort in the future.

RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan

The Schatz Energy Research Center held a press conference on Tuesday, September 18th to announce the release of the draft RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan. The plan, prepared by SERC and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), lays out a roadmap for development of local renewable energy resources in order to meet the majority of Humboldt County’s electricity needs and a substantial portion of heating and transportation energy needs. SERC and RCEA are holding a town hall public meeting to present the plan on September 26th from 6 to 8 PM at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. We are encouraging the community to review the plan and provide feedback. The public comment period will extend through October 26th. For more details and to download the draft documents visit SERC’s RePower Humboldt.

Renewable energy-related images

 

SERC Begins Electric Vehicle Planning Study for the North Coast

SERC has teamed up with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and GHD (formerly Winzler and Kelly) to conduct a plug-in electric vehicle planning study for our North Coast community.  The California Energy Commission has provided $200,000 in funding for the study as part of the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (also known as AB 118).  The goals of this program are to reduce dependency on petroleum and greenhouse gas emissions while improving energy security.  The North Coast was one of nine regions funded throughout the state.

The aim of the North Coast Plug-in Electric Vehicle Readiness Project is to prepare Humboldt County for the successful adoption of electric vehicles.  Project activities will include the development of a plan to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the region, preparation of a permitting and installation guide, efforts to assist fleet vehicle operators in adopting plug-in electric vehicles, and education and outreach to the general public.  We expect to be complete the project by the first quarter of 2014.

New RESCO Products: Strategic Plan, Guide for Local Leaders

The Humboldt Renewable Energy Secure Communities (RESCO) project is nearing completion, and we’re close to publishing two new products, a RESCO strategic plan and a guide for local government on energy policy and regulations.

Humboldt County has the opportunity to lead the way toward a renewable energy future by using local renewable energy resources to meet the majority of its electricity needs and a large portion of its heating and transportation needs.  To accomplish this in an efficient, cost-effective manner will require a well thought-out plan.  The RESCO strategic plan lays out such a road map.

Comparison of future energy scenarios

Figure 1. Comparison of energy production by generation source as a fraction of total county demand for electricity in 2030.

The plan discusses three potential future energy scenarios for the year 2030 (see figure 1, below):  business-as-usual, bold, and peakBusiness-as-usual assumes we maintain our current sources of energy, bold assumes we develop an optimal mix of new efficiency and renewable energy resources while capping overall cost increases at 5% above business-as-usual, and peak assumes we develop all that is practically achievable.  Technologies considered include: energy efficiency, small hydro, wind, plug-in electric vehicles, heat pumps, biomass, wave, and solar power. The costs and benefits of these scenarios and technologies are considered.  Finally, a set of long-term strategies and near-term next steps are presented.

The other important deliverable nearing completion is a handbook for local policymakers to help them take leadership roles on bringing more renewable energy and energy efficiency to Humboldt County. The guide posits a number of questions (How can local governments capture the financial benefits of generating their own renewable energy? How can local governments encourage and support the private development of local renewable energy and energy efficiency?) and lays out action-oriented responses tailored to conditions in Humboldt County. The guide presents examples of many ways in which Humboldt County has already acted as a leader on energy policy and identifies examples from elsewhere that may work well with a local twist.

SERC Supports AC Transit’s HyRoad Program

AC Transit Safety Training

Emeryville firefighters pose in front of the latest AC Transit fuel cell bus during a SERC hydrogen awareness and safety training (Photo credit SERC).

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, more commonly known as AC Transit, boasts the largest hydrogen fuel cell bus program in the United States, and one of the largest in the world. This places them on the leading edge introducing hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle technology. Their HyRoad fuel cell vehicle demonstration program has operated since 2000. This program includes fuel cell bus and light duty fuel cell vehicle operation, on-site hydrogen production, delivery and storage of hydrogen produced off-site, hydrogen vehicle fueling, hydrogen vehicle maintenance, safety training, and public education. Throughout the project period, SERC has partnered with AC Transit, providing education and outreach, training, and consulting services.

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Yurok Energy Upgrade Complete

Yurok PV Array

Project Manager Jim Zoellick checks the shading profile for the Weitchpec solar electric array. (Photo credit SERC.)

The Yurok Tribe recently completed energy upgrades at their Klamath and Weitchpec Tribal offices. This included the installation of a 15.7 kW AC solar electric array in Weitchpec and energy efficiency upgrades at both locations. As reported in our Fall 2011 newsletter, SERC provided the Tribe with technical support for the project. This included services from start to finish.

Initially, SERC helped the Tribe secure American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for the project and worked with the Tribe to define the scope of project activities. In addition to ARRA funding, SERC helped the Tribe secure a rebate from the California Solar Initiative program. This offset part of the cost of the solar electric system.

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RESCO

RESCO logo

SERC is the technical lead on the Renewable Energy Secure Communities (RESCO) study, an effort led by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and funded by the California Energy Commission.

A flurry of activity continues on the Humboldt County Renewable Energy Secure Community (RESCO) project. We have completed the bulk of our engineering and economic analyses and are preparing interim project reports on each of these tasks. Key lessons learned from our work to date are: (1) we can meet a large portion of our energy needs using local renewable energy resources; (2) we can do this at a modest overall cost increase; (3) we can greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; and (4) renewable energy development will result in a substantial net increase in local jobs and economic output.

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Working with the Yurok Tribe on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Evaluating Yurok PV Installation

Jim Zoellick takes measures the shading (using a solar pathfinder) on a PV array on a Yurok Tribal office building. (Photo credit SERC).

The Schatz Lab has a long-standing relationship working with the Yurok Tribe on energy projects. Starting in 1999, we installed a fuel cell power system at School House Peak that powered their cell phone repeater station. Since then we have installed a residential off-grid solar electric system and conducted energy planning and needs assessment work.

Currently we are conducting a feasibility study to examine the potential for wind- and hydro-electric energy generation on the Reservation. We have been collecting stream flow data on Pecwan and Ke’Pel Creeks for about two years, as well as wind speed data on McKinnon Hill for the past year. We are now analyzing the data, determining the energy generation potential, estimating project costs and potential revenues, and conducting life-cycle economic assessments. The final results of this study are due early next year.

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Yurok Wind and Hydro Feasibility Study

SERC and Yurok Staff Raise a 50m Wind Monitoring Tower

SERC and Yurok Staff Raise a 50m Wind Monitoring Tower (Photo credit SERC).

SERC has been working with Austin Nova and others at the Yurok Tribe to assess the feasibility of developing wind and hydroelectric energy resources on the Yurok Reservation. In the fall of 2008 we installed stream gauging stations on Pecwan and Ke’Pel creeks, and in September of 2009 we installed a 50 meter wind monitoring tower atop the McKinnon Hill ridge. Since then we have collected a substantial amount of wind and hydro data, and we are now prepared to begin analysis of these data to see if energy development projects are feasible.

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