Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Nick Goulette on September 28

Join us on Thursday, September 28 at 5:30 pm in Founders Hall 118, for a presentation by Nick Goulette on imagining and achieving the potential of community-based forestry in Northern California. As The Watershed Center’s executive director, Nick Goulette oversees programs focused on forestry, fire and fuels, watershed and fisheries, youth engagement, enterprise development, policy, and research.

Over the past thirteen years with the Watershed Center, Goulette has worked on a wide range of collaborative projects. He is the Chair of the Northern CA Prescribed Fire Council and a long-time member of the leadership team for the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition. He also helped establish the CA Forest Biomass Working Group and the CA Statewide Wood Energy Team, and worked with the design and launch of the national Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

Goulette was born and raised in Maine and received a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Vermont with a concentration in Community-Based Forestry. He now lives with his wife Naomi on a homestead in Weaverville, California.

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series is cosponsored by the Schatz Energy Research Center, the Environment & Community graduate program, and the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Humboldt State. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, email us at serc@humboldt.edu or call (707) 826-4345.

PV module performance over time: assessing 26 years at the HSU Telonicher Marine Lab

In 1990, the Schatz Center installed 192 ARCO M75 photovoltaic (PV) modules at the HSU Telonicher Marine Lab in Trinidad, California, 150 m off the Pacific Ocean. Current voltage (IV) tests were performed on each module prior to the array’s construction in 1990, again in 2001 and 2010, and most recently in 2016 after the array was decommissioned.

Read our report, which will appear in the June 2017 Proceedings of the 44th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference…

Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Debbie Page-Dumroese on August 31

Join us on Thursday, August 31 at 5:30 pm in Founders Hall 118, for a presentation by visiting soil scientist Debbie Page-Dumroese on the use of biochar to sequester carbon and improve soil resilience. Biochar is a porous, high-carbon material derived from exposing biomass to temperatures above 500°C in a low-oxygen environment. The resultant “char” is typically used as a soil amendment to increase water-holding capacity and nutrient retention.

Page-Dumroese has been a Research Soil Scientist with the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station for over three decades. Her work focuses on long-term soil productivity after harvest operation, sustainable harvesting, wood decomposition, and biochar. For the last ten years, she has been investigating the potential to reduce slash pile burns and limit wildfire risks by using onsite biochar conversion technologies.

Visiting Speaker Debbie Page-Dumroese

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series is cosponsored by the Schatz Energy Research Center and HSU’s Environment & Community graduate program. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, email us at serc@humboldt.edu or call (707) 826-4345.

Waste to Wisdom Webinar: Wednesday, August 9

On Wednesday, August 9 at 10 am (Pacific), join SERC Research Engineer Mark Severy alongside Sevda Alanya, Richard Bergman, and Ted Bilek of the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory as they discuss results from a life cycle assessment and economic analysis of producing torrefied biomass from forest residues.

To register, visit the Waste to Wisdom site.

Cupped hands hold unprocessed and torrefied wood chips in comparison.

Unprocessed wood chips (front) and the same feedstock after torrefaction. Photo credit Kellie Brown.

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.

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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

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