In September we brought the Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project to a successful conclusion. Over the three years the project was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, five universities adopted the curriculum for use in engineering, chemistry, and environmental science courses. In the closing months of the project, we completed our last instructional videos and provided DOE with a draft final report, currently undergoing review. The project will remain alive via its website (www.hydrogencurriculum.org), and we’re always interested in talking with educators who wish to adopt the curriculum. The hydrogen experiment kits and fuel cell test stations featured on the project website can be made to order; please contact us for a quote. We’re now in the process of seeking funding and partners to continue development and dissemination of the curriculum and commercialization of the lab equipment.
An effort years in the making came to full fruition on the sunny, breezy morning of September 2, when the Schatz Energy Research Center opened the doors of its new laboratory to the public. Dignitaries including Congressman Mike Thompson and HSU President Rollin Richmond opened the ceremony, speaking to a cheering crowd outside the lab. “Right here you have it all,” said Congressman Thompson. “You have education, you have innovation, and you have renewable energy… This is the future.”
SERC is playing a key role in helping the Yurok Tribe of northern California add renewable energy generation and energy efficiency improvements to their Tribal office buildings. As we reported in our fall 2010 newsletter, the Tribe is installing a solar electric system on their Weitchpec office and implementing energy efficiency upgrades in the Weitchpec building as well as their Klamath office. Measures include air sealing and improved lighting and HVAC controls.
Since 2009, SERC’s Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project, with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has produced over 50 hydrogen experiment kits that have been made available on loan to engineering departments at University of California and California State University campuses. Each kit includes an electrolyzer for generating hydrogen, a fuel cell for generating electricity with the hydrogen, and instruments for making measurements of system efficiency. SERC has developed a set of lab activities that incorporate the kit.
HSU engineering graduate student Nicholas Riedel is spending the summer in El Salvador, studying how energy is used on a university campus. Nicholas is conducting a broad-scale campus energy audit at Universidad Don Bosco and intends to compare and contrast energy efficiency opportunities in this tropical setting in a developing country with lessons previously learned about energy management at HSU. Mentoring for Nicholas’s efforts comes from SERC senior research engineer Richard Engel, who served as a Fulbright scholar at UDB in 2010. Nicholas’s visit to UDB is the first inter-campus exchange under an HSU-UDB cooperation agreement that grew out of Richard’s stay at UDB.
SERC’s recently launched collaboration with biomass energy startup Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT) reached an important milestone on April 7, when a group of U.S. Forest Service officials, professional foresters, and biomass specialists from across the country convened at SERC for a Torrefaction Research, Development, and Commercialization Meeting.
The meeting included a demonstration of RFT’s prototype wood torrefier that had been recently moved to SERC. Many of the meeting participants, including RFT’s technical and business leadership team, braved late-season storms and a major landslide to make the trek up from the Bay Area.
Our Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project continues to grow as it enters its third year. This semester we brought hydrogen-related curriculum to five engineering and environmental science courses at Humboldt State, including new activities for a probability and statistics class, an upper- division renewable energy course, and a new thermodynamics class for non-engineering students.
SERC’s Richard Engel recently spent half a year away from the lab, on a Fulbright-sponsored assignment in El Salvador. He assisted Universidad Don Bosco in renewable energy program development, designing and teaching a Spanish-language course, developing preliminary designs for two on-campus renewable energy projects, and helping UDB to create its own energy research facility.
Surprisingly, tiny El Salvador, just twice the size of Humboldt County but crowded with some six million inhabitants, is one of the world’s leading renewable energy users. Over 60% of its electricity comes from renewable sources, mainly hydropower, geothermal energy, and biomass used in sugar processing plants. The solar energy resource is also abundant, but has been little exploited to date for economic reasons.
The Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project has been underway since 2004, and after much hard work we are nearing a momentous milestone. In collaboration with SERC and the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, LabAids, Inc. is about to begin offering a commercial version of our HyTEC curriculum. The cornerstone of the curriculum is a bench-top electrolyzer and fuel cell kit that high school students will work with in their chemistry or other physical science courses. With this bench-top kit, students will produce hydrogen via electrolysis and then use the hydrogen to power a small fuel cell and run a fan motor. Students will collect data while running the lab experiment and will use the data to estimate the energy conversion efficiency of the fuel cell.
As Humboldt County settles into another rainy winter, SERC senior research engineer Richard Engel is headed for a sunnier locale. Richard has been awarded a Fulbright grant to help Don Bosco University in El Salvador develop a degree program in renewable energy and energy efficiency. During his semester at Don Bosco, Richard will:
• teach a seminar course on energy topics directed at graduate students and energy industry professionals;
• consult with faculty on renewable energy program development;
• assist the university in creating a sustainable energy institute;
• explore opportunities to install a renewable energy demonstration project at the Don Bosco campus.