Energy Ladder Research: Exploring the adoption of off-grid strategies in rural Uganda

SERC is researching solar product use in rural Uganda, to better understand what motivates and empowers low-income energy users to adopt off-grid energy solutions. This year-long study utilizes quantitative and qualitative research methods to explore customer adoption and financing behavior for off-grid energy solutions.

The Energy Ladder Research project is an initiative of the UNCDF’s CleanStart Programme, launched in partnership with SolarAid/Acumen.

Read more about the Energy Ladder Research project…

Farewell to Jason McMack and Jeff Mosbacher

This month, SERC Research Engineer Jason McMack and SERC Research Assistant Jeff Mosbacher depart for new adventures at the Colorado School of Mines. Both Jason and Jeff are graduates of the HSU Environmental Resources Engineering program, and will be pursuing master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the School of Mines. Jason began as a SERC docent in 2014, and then joined the off-grid energy access team in the summer of 2015. He completed his bachelor’s in December 2016, and has since been employed full-time at the lab. Jeff joined SERC in 2015 as a student research assistant, working on a project examining the quality of LED lights sold in Bangladesh. Jeff has continued to work with the off-grid energy access team since, and completed his bachelor’s this May. We wish them both all the best in Colorado!

Jason McMack and Jeff Mosbacher

Jason McMack (left) and Jeff Mosbacher (right)

SERC and solar power in sub-Saharan Africa

In this week’s New Yorker magazine (issue: June 26, 2017), Bill McKibben reports on solar power development in sub-Saharan Africa, including the role of quality assurance testing offered by SERC and other labs in the Lighting Global network.

Clarification (for the New Yorker piece): SERC Director Dr. Arne Jacobson played a leading role in the creation and implementation of Lighting Global, a program jointly managed by the International Finance Corporation and World Bank. The international testing labs are part of the Lighting Global network, not subsidiaries of the Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC). SERC provides setup and training for Lighting Global affiliated labs in Africa and Asia, as well as off-grid product testing and standards development.

Read more about SERC’s off-grid solar product testing lab…

Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Mallik Angalakudati of PG&E on California’s Energy Future

We are pleased to welcome Mallik Angalakudati of PG&E as the next speaker in the Spring 2017 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Mallik will speak on Thursday, March 2 from 5:30 to 7:00 PM in Founders Hall 118 (FH118) on the HSU campus. The title of his talk is “Changing Energy Landscape in California.”

Mallik Angalakudati serves as Vice President for Corporate Strategy at PG&E’s Corporation. In this role, Mallik works closely with PG&E senior leadership to develop utility and holding company strategies. Prior to this role, he oversaw investment planning, resource management, strategy, process and quality excellence and contract management functions as Vice President, Gas Business Performance Management. Mallik came to PG&E with more than 15 years’ experience in the energy industry.

Prior to joining PG&E, Mallik worked at National Grid in both operational as well as process leadership positions. His experience also includes management consulting and energy pricing and risk management. He holds an MBA from the University of Michigan, an MS in Environmental Engineering from the University of North Carolina, and a BS in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. Mallik also earned an executive education certificate in Leading Change and Organizational Renewal from the Harvard Business School and a Master Blackbelt certification from the Villanova University. Mallik serves on the Operating Committee of MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations program, Utility Analytics Institute Advisory Board and the Advisory Board of the School of Economics and Business Administration at St. Mary’s College.

California is going through a major electricity sector transition that involves a strong shift toward renewable energy, energy efficiency, and demand management. PG&E has one of the cleanest electricity portfolios in the U.S. among major utilities, and it delivers more renewable power to customers than any other utility in the country. Mallik is at the forefront of PG&E strategic planning efforts, and his talk promises to provide key insights about California’s energy future.

500kW Solar Array Installed for BLR Microgrid Project

SERC graduate student research assistants Pramod Singh (left) and Jake Rada on site at the solar array. Photo credit Kellie Brown.

SERC graduate student research assistants Pramod Singh (left) and Jake Rada on site at the solar array. Photo credit Kellie Brown.

Construction on the Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR) microgrid began in May, and great progress has been made this summer. While the lasting image of the project will be the 500kW solar array, there was significant preparatory work done above and below ground to make the microgrid functional. This included placing underground conduits for both power and communication lines to connect every aspect of the microgrid. A primary function of these conduits is to combine the 500kW of solar power from the array and the 500kW of stored solar power from the battery bank at a 12kV utility line that ties BLR to the PG&E electrical grid. As of this publication, the following building blocks of this project have been completed:

  • all conduit is in place
  • all 1,548 solar modules have been installed
  • all three concrete pads have been poured to hold equipment for the PV array, the battery bank (BESS), and the point of common coupling (PCC) with PG&E
  • all 10 Tesla batteries, as well as the rest of the BESS equipment, are in position and anchored on the pad
  • PCC switchgear is in place and anchored
Tesla battery bank with the solar array in the background.

Tesla battery bank with the solar array in the background.

There is still much to be done before the microgrid can begin to provide a renewable power generation source that is resilient and reliable. Now that the equipment and hardware are in place, the process of installing the software that is integral to making the off-grid islanding aspect of the microgrid possible will begin. The project is scheduled to be completed by early December.

Pramod Singh and I, both graduate student research assistants, represented SERC and the BLR Microgrid project at this summer’s InterSolar/ASES Conference and Expo in San Francisco. We gave a brief presentation outlining the design, goals, and progress made so far on the BLR microgrid, and we attended other presentations and panels dedicated to the solar energy sector. It was encouraging to learn that many conference attendees see microgrids as playing a critical role in the future of solar energy. SERC’s experience with the BLR microgrid will prove to be a fruitful venture as microgrids become more popular and affordable.

Northwest California Alternative Fuels Readiness Project

With funding from the California Energy Commission under solicitation PON-13-603, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) and SERC began a two-year planning process in the spring of 2014. Key project partners were the Mendocino Council of Governments, the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, and the Siskiyou County Economic Development Council (SCEDC). As this project nears completion, we reflect on the accomplishments of the project and next steps for increased regional adoption of low carbon transportation fuels.

Background: “The goal of this project [was] to create an alternative fuel readiness plan through coordinated efforts in the Northwest Region,”[1] which for this project consisted of the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Trinity. The readiness plan was to “include a strategic assessment of the challenges and opportunities for the adoption of alternative fuels and implementation of targeted outreach programs for fuels.”[2]

The project consisted of six main tasks:

  • assess the existing status of and potential for future deployment of fuels
  • analyze existing and potential incentives structures
  • identify strategies for increased procurement and commercialization of fuels
  • review existing training materials targeted to relevant stakeholders and identify needs and barriers
  • develop materials and strategies that communicate the benefits of low carbon fuels to targeted stakeholder groups
  • create a complete, comprehensive, and detailed readiness plan for the region.

Accomplishments and Results: As reported in the Spring 2015 newsletter, SERC addressed the first task through the development of a simulation model that explores marginal abatement cost curves in order to guide regional investment in low carbon fuels. The model used the statewide Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)  target of a 10% reduction in transportation fuel carbon intensity by 2020 (see Figure below). The key conclusions of this analysis are

  • Electric vehicles currently present the least incremental cost across commercially available fuels and technologies, in terms of infrastructure capital cost, vehicle capital cost, and vehicle cost of ownership.
  • Due to market limitations there is no single “silver bullet” fuel. Regional investment in a variety of low carbon fuels is needed to meet the 2020 LCFS target.
  • Portfolio-wide average marginal cost of carbon abatement (as shown in is projected to be around $200 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, and could very well exceed this.

AFRimage2

The results of this simulation model were used to develop regional estimates of the direct impact to the transportation sector should model results be fully implemented. These estimates show that 17% of passenger vehicles and 2.7% of all other on-road vehicles may be impacted, resulting in a 6% increase in electricity consumption and a displacement of 10% of total gallons of gasoline and diesel currently consumed in the region. Furthermore, over 300 public electric vehicle parking stalls may be needed along with 19 new or retrofitted liquid fueling stations representing 9% of existing stations in the region. The projected incremental societal cost over the five-year period between 2015 and 2020 is $43 million (in 2015 dollars), which averages to $1,600 per vehicle across all fuel and vehicle types modeled.

In parallel to the above modeling effort, the project team formed three working groups that informed the planning process: a strategic planning working group, a fuel distributor working group, and a training materials working group. The working groups helped identify barriers and potential solutions to increased low carbon fuel adoption as well as guided the structure of the readiness plan. The input from these stakeholders, along with an extensive literature review, resulted in the identification of 22 specific barriers and 69 potential actions to address these barriers.

In addition, project partners developed outreach materials to be used to engage with and inform a wide array of stakeholder groups, focusing mainly on local government entities and fleet managers. Numerous outreach efforts were also conducted, including extensive engagement with public and private fleet managers and local government agencies.

Readiness Plan and Next Steps: The above efforts have been synthesized into a detailed regional readiness plan which is now available. The primary audience is local government, but the plan contains useful information for fuel distributors and fleet managers and contains recommendations for action across all stakeholder groups including state policy makers.

Project partners also identified the Department of Energy Clean Cities program as a key next step that could continue the development and implementation of the readiness plan. To this end the project team held a strategic networking event in February in Eureka that was simulcast to Redding and Ukiah, California. The goals of the event were twofold:

  • bring local government stakeholders up to speed on state and local efforts to accelerate the adoption of low carbon transportation fuels and vehicles
  • explain the Clean Cities program, outline the potential benefits of this program for the region, and pursue stakeholder interest and/or commitments to the formation of a Clean Cities Coalition.

A total of 20 different stakeholder agencies were represented at the event across seven counties, two CalTrans Districts, and two Assembly Districts. All stakeholder representatives expressed positive interest in the development of a Clean Cities Coalition in the North State region and found the event informative. Commitments to further action were made regarding participation in future events to solidify details and next steps. Two follow-up meetings were held in May and June with a sub-group of participants during which co-coordinator commitments were confirmed from SCEDC and RCEA. A Clean Cities Coalition application to the DOE is currently in development and is expected to move forward.

Conclusion: It is clear the proposed LCFS target is not realistic for the region in the near future given the level of investment and action required over such a short time frame. However, the readiness plan provides a useful guidepost for regional stakeholders, and quantifiable and actionable steps that can be taken now and well past the LCFS target date of 2020. In addition, the successful formation of a Clean Cities Coalition in the region is expected to increase the impact of this project and will hopefully lead to future funding and action in the region.

For more detailed information and access to project reports visit http://redwoodenergy.org/current-projects/alternative-fuels

AFRimage

[1] California Energy Commission Agreement Number ARV-13-012.
[2] Ibid

PV Module Testing Round Four

Tdad_PV_testing_sm

SERC volunteer Andre Bernal (left) and graduate student research assistant Jake Rada (right) measure the current and voltage curve of a photovoltaic module that has completed 26 years of service in the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project. Each of the 192 modules in the project has been tested in 1990, 2001, 2010, and now again in 2016.

 

 

Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Alex Eaton on Energy Production from Farm Waste in Latin America

alexeaton_dragon_revWe are pleased to welcome Alex Eaton, CEO of Sistema Biobolsa and an HSU alumnus, as the next speaker in the Fall 2016 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Alex will speak on Thursday, October 13 from 5:30 to 7:00 PM in the Art B building, room 102 on the HSU campus. The title of his talk is “Waste to Energy to Market.”

Alex Eaton is the co-founder and CEO of Sistema Biobolsa, a company that fabricates, distributes, finances and services small-scale biogas systems in Latin America. Based in Mexico, the company is currently growing into new markets. Alex is also the co-founder of the Latin America Biogas Network and the Mexico Biogas Program of the International Renewable Resources Institute. He has been supported in his work as an Ashoka Fellow and Switzer Environmental Leadership Fellow and through the USDA, US EPA, and the Mexican government. Alex has a BA in journalism from Western State College of Colorado and an MS from the Energy Technology and Policy (ETaP) master’s program at Humboldt State University, where his master’s thesis focused on the development of the Sistema Biobolsa concept.

As we work to increase energy access and to mitigate climate change, we need creative, cost effective solutions to thousands of different energy problems. Sistema Biobolsa represents a highly innovative and successful effort that simultaneously increases access to affordable energy for low income farmers, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and provides additional benefits such as high quality fertilizer. In his talk, Alex will tell the story of how he helped build a successful business around the Sistema Biobolsa concept from work that he started while he was pursuing his master’s degree here at HSU. The talk should be interesting and engaging, and we encourage you to attend. Please forward this message on to others who may be interested.

Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Andy Baker on Ocean Source Heat Energy

We are pleased to announce Andy Baker, an energy consultant from Anchorage Alaska, as the next speaker in the Fall 2016 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Andy will speak on Thursday, October 6 from 5:30 to 7:00 PM in the Art B building, room 102 on the HSU campus. The title of his talk is “Saved By The Gyres: Ocean Source Heat Pumps Cut Heating Costs and CO2 Emissions in Coastal Alaska Cities.”

Andy Baker is a registered professional engineer in Alaska and owner of YourCleanEnergy consulting in Anchorage. He has lived and worked in Alaska since 1998 and has focused for the past twelve years on identifying and designing cost effective renewable energy systems for commercial, municipal, and community clients. Andy has a bachelor of science in environmental engineering from Penn State University. He has worked previously as a project engineer for Buchart-Horn in Pennsylvania; Black & Veatch in San Diego, Lusaka, and Boston; and for HDR Alaska in Anchorage.

Andy’s work focus since 2009 has been on ocean source heat pumps systems for large facilities and district heating in coastal Alaska. He has worked with the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward for the past seven years to evaluate, design and monitor a large sea water heat pump system that has now effectively replaced 98% of local fossil fuel use with ocean source heat pumps. This high profile demonstration project combines the science of ocean gyres and an innovative heating system to produce a clean energy solution that has exciting implications for many northern coastal cities of the world.

The talk should be a very interesting one, and we encourage you to attend.

Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Sharon Kramer of H.T. Harvey to Speak on Wave Energy and the Environment

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Sharon Kramer of H.T. Harvey & Associates to campus as the first speaker in the Fall 2016 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Sharon will speak on Thursday, September 15 from 5:30 to 7:00 PM in the Art B building, room 102 on the HSU campus. The Art B building is located just to the east of the Van Duzer Theater. The title of her talk is “State of the Science on Environmental Issues and Marine Renewable Energy.”

Dr. Sharon Kramer is a principal at H. T. Harvey & Associates, and she heads its North Coast office and the Fish and Aquatic Ecology team. She has more than 25 years of experience in aquatic ecology and fisheries biology in the Pacific Northwest, California, Australia, and Hawai‘i. Sharon is well-versed in fish and aquatic habitat restoration and monitoring and project permitting, with extensive federal Endangered Species Act work. Her most recent focus has involved assessing and mitigating the environmental effects associated with marine renewable energy projects. Sharon has a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an M.S. in Zoology from the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, and a B.A. in Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Marine renewable energy, including wave energy and off-shore wind power, has great potential to contribute to the production of clean energy over the coming decades. Our region, including sites offshore along the California Coast north of Cape Mendocino and the Oregon Coast, has perhaps the best wave and off-shore wind resource potential in the continental United States. While the resource is excellent, challenges must be overcome to create reliable, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable marine renewable energy systems. Sharon has been a central player in efforts to address these challenges, with a focus on monitoring and addressing environmental issues associated with off-shore renewable energy systems. Her talk should be a very interesting and engaging one, and we encourage you to attend.