Open Position at the Schatz Center: Research Assistant or Engineering Technician

We are currently seeking one or more Research Assistants or Engineering Technicians to work at the Schatz Center in Arcata, California. Based on background skillsets, project needs, and interests, the selected applicant(s) will work in one or more of the following active research areas:

  • Offshore Wind Power: Examine the socioeconomic and policy dimensions of offshore wind power in Northern California by conducting stakeholder outreach and evaluating policies at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Off-Grid Solar for Rural Electrification – Product Performance Testing: Conduct laboratory and desk-based research, data analysis, and report writing/review to support deployment and quality assurance of off-grid solar electricity and/or solar water pumping systems in Africa and/or South Asia.
  • Off-Grid Solar for Rural Electrification – Analysis of Solar Product Users, Technology, & Impacts: Perform analysis of several nationally representative household energy surveys to characterize solar product users. Model environmental and welfare benefits/impacts of energy transitions. Develop and apply tools and approaches to assess the market-readiness of off-grid solar products.
  • Bioenergy: Analyze the performance of biomass conversion systems with physical testing and data analysis. Assess the quality of biomass and biochar products by conducting laboratory tests and physical assessments. Evaluate the market for biochar by designing and conducting interviews with biochar producers and consumers.
  • Renewable Energy Microgrids: Assist with microgrid and EV charging station design, permitting and regulatory processes. Assist with CAD drawing. Assist with evaluation of system benefits and business model. Construction observation.
  • Clean Transportation: Data processing and analysis of electric vehicle load projections. Perform optimization modeling to develop vehicle charging infrastructure. Review and apply equipment specifications. Contribute to translating analysis results to real world scenarios.

Application Deadline: All application materials must be received by 4 pm Pacific Time (US), Wednesday, December 19, 2018. A six-month commitment is required. Reappointment is desirable but contingent on funding, workload requirements, and performance.

Two technicians work with a solar module

Schatz engineering technicians measure the IV curve of a PV module

Schatz Energy Fall 2018 Newsletter

Page 1 of the Schatz Energy news

Our twice-annual print newsletter is now available to download. Features include:

  • The Schatz Center roof goes solar
  • A message from the Director
  • Project announcements and updates
  • Student research 2018
  • Lighting Global Quality Assurance updates
  • Northern CA coast offshore wind feasibility

Download the Fall 2018 Schatz Energy Newsletter

CLASP and IFC affiliated team members visit the Schatz Center

Last week, the Lighting Global team hosted Riley Macdonald from CLASP and Honglin Hui, a consultant to the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Riley recently joined the CLASP team as Market Development Coordinator and is based in Washington, DC. Honglin recently joined the IFC team as a Lighting Global China consultant and is based in Shenzhen, China.

Riley and Honglin participated in three days of training designed to increase their understanding of the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program. The training included sessions on testing methods, standards, and policies used by the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program, as well as hands-on work in the test lab. We also met to discuss approaches for outreach to Chinese manufacturers that are reflective of Chinese business culture and represent best practices for cross-language communication.

Arne and Honglin inspect a module in the Schatz Center's off-grid solar products test lab.

Arne Jacobson and Honglin Hui inspect a solar module.

Kaileigh Vincent-Welling and Riley Macdonald work in the Schatz Center's off-grid solar products test lab.

Kaileigh Vincent-Welling demonstrates the solar charge test for Riley Macdonald.

An extended hand turns the dial on an Electronic Load, which reads 0.0003V and 0.002A.

Scott Toyama shows how an electronic load is used to test the port performance of off-grid solar products.

Six people stand in a narrow, wet canyon with fern-covered walls.

Our visitors join the team for a hike in Fern Canyon.

Lighting Global Quality Assurance: test method and standards updates

As a growing and dynamic industry, the off-grid solar market encompasses a wide diversity of product quality. Some products are designed and manufactured well, while others fall short of expectations for safety, durability, or performance. In many households, purchasing an off-grid solar product is a major financial decision. Poor quality products can lead to market spoilage — in which consumers lose trust in an entire technology. Product standards and testing provide quality assurance for consumers, and support those companies who follow best practices in manufacturing and design.

Starting in 2007, the Schatz Center, working in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany, helped develop a set of test methods for evaluating off-grid solar product quality. In 2013, a revised version of these test methods was published by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) under IEC TS 62257-9-5. Since 2009, we have worked closely with Lighting Africa, Lighting Asia and Lighting Global World Bank Group initiatives to develop an international program for quality assurance and consumer protection for LED-based off-grid lighting and power systems.

In the last ten years, over 29 million Lighting Global Quality Verified solar lighting products have been sold, benefitting more than 147 million people.

Recent developments:

  • In 2018, we updated the test methods to include a more robust analysis of ports and appliances. This new version of the IEC TS 62257-9-5 was published in June.
  • The Schatz Center renewed and expanded our ISO 17025 accreditation through the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) to be one of the three off-grid solar testing labs internationally accredited to conduct testing according to the new version of IEC TS 62257-9-5.
  • We recently submitted the Lighting Global Quality Standards to the IEC for adoption. Having these standards published by the IEC will create an easier path for government adoption and will help limit the sale of poor quality products in the market.
Brightly illuminated LED products against a black background

A selection of off-grid solar products that have met the Lighting Global Quality Standards

Student research developments: summer 2018

This summer, thirteen students contributed to Schatz Center research projects in smart grids, bioenergy, wind, and off-grid energy access.

SMART GRIDS

Craig Mitchell provided construction observation at the Solar+ installation, tracking the canopy weight in real-time and serving as an onsite liaison between contractors and the Schatz microgrid team. As part of his observation, Craig recorded the installation’s actual daily labor and equipment requirements, to better define the needs for similar projects in the future. He is currently developing a hardware design toolkit that documents lessons learned in the Solar+ installation.

Solar+ students standing outside the Schatz Center

Solar+ student team: (l to r) Craig Mitchell, Thalia Quinn, Ellen Thompson and Rene DeWees

Thalia Quinn, Ellen Thompson and René DeWees have been developing a model to assess the current and future costs of building microgrids that integrate solar, battery storage, and fast EV charging. This model will help define which sites are good candidates for investment, and identify future research and development opportunities. This summer, the team conducted a detailed literature review to assess current and forecasted cost data: Thalia focused on battery storage, Ellen on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and René on solar PV. They are now refining their cost model and generating a convenience store survey, to understand how current site owners view microgrids and to better assess installation opportunities.

Smart grid design is also evolving to take advantage of demand response technologies. As part of a collaboration with GE & Southern California Edison, Anh Bui developed an algorithm using Python code for estimating the tension between shifting a customer load to benefit the grid versus shifting a load to reduce their bill. Anh also helped with the installation of our new Schatz Solar Array in September.

Anh Bui tightens a solar module on the Schatz Center roof

Anh Bui installs a module for the new Schatz Solar Array

BIOENERGY

This summer, Sabrinna Rios Romero quantified decay rates for the post-harvest residues of seven agricultural crops: corn, wheat, rice, cotton, almond, walnut and grape. These decay rates will allow us to better assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission implications of leaving residues in field versus converting them into electricity. This fall, Sabrinna is surveying state foresters to clarify the fate of forest residues — i.e. whether they are piled, burned, or scattered in the field — information which will allow us to more accurately assess emissions following forest harvest. She has also been analyzing biomass samples using a bomb calorimeter and a thermogravimetric analyzer, to measure the performance of a gasifier system.

Cassidy Barrientos conducted a literature review that characterized GHG emissions from wood chip storage (e.g. chip piles at a power plant). Decomposition during storage — and the resulting emissions — are an area that have not been well-quantified, and may represent an important source of greenhouse gases. In September, Cassidy and Schatz Faculty Research Associate Sintana Vergara presented a poster, “Characterizing greenhouse gas emissions from wood chip storage,” and gave an oral presentation “Waste not: Improving the efficiency of using forestry residues as an energy resource” at the ARI Principal Investigator’s Meeting in Sacramento.

Cassidy Barrientos in front of her poster at the ARI conference

Cassidy Barrientos at the ARI Principal Investigator’s Meeting

Max Blasdel continued his ongoing work for the California Biopower Impacts Project. Max is characterizing the field decomposition of woody biomass residues left behind by forestry operations. His efforts comprise a key component of the business-as-usual case used to evaluate the net climate impacts of biomass removal for electricity generation. Max’s project research will form the basis for his master’s thesis in the Natural Resources program here at Humboldt State.

WIND ENERGY

Karsten Hayes developed an initial cost model (using Python and R) for north coast California offshore wind energy. The model includes associated storage needs, and integrates high-resolution offshore wind resource data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory with load data for Humboldt County and California, drawn from Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).

OFF-GRID ENERGY ACCESS

Eli Wallach and Chih-Wei Hsu developed a method to estimate the number of fossil fuel generators used in low- and middle-income countries, how much electricity they generate, and how much fuel they consume. Their work supports a larger effort to estimate the economic, environmental and health impacts of fossil fuel generator systems used as a primary or backup source of electricity. To inform their assumptions and approach, they drew from multiple sources of data, including dozens of nationally representative household and business surveys. These data helped them understand the intensity of generator use at the country level, and in which sectors they are being utilized (i.e. commercial, residential). Eli and Chih-Wei’s fuel consumption estimates for over 130 countries are currently being utilized to update a widely used air quality and climate impacts model maintained by project collaborators at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis.

Schatz fellow Anamika Singh worked this summer with a team led by Dr. Amol Phadke at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her research, which included collaboration with Dr. Phadke and Dr. Nikit Abhyankar, focused on identifying the parity price at which renewable energy technologies become feasible for heavy industries in India. Read more in our Fall 2018 From the Fellows report…

Chih-Wei and Anamika also helped with our Schatz Solar Array installation in September.

Tanya Garcia worked in the Schatz Center’s off-grid solar lab this summer, conducting solar product tests — including durability (drop and ingress), safety, and truth in advertising (light output, max power, full battery run time, etc.). She developed communications templates for the test lab network and edited specifications sheets to clarify product test policies. Tanya also helped test an open source electricity monitor, the EmonPi, and provided energy outreach activities for university and K-12 groups. Tanya is continuing her work in the off-grid solar lab this fall.

Tanya Garcia unpacks a solar module in the Schatz courtyard

Tanya Garcia prepares to test a solar module

From the fellows: Anamika Singh

Anamika Singh headshot

I am second year graduate student in the Energy, Technology and Policy program here at HSU. I am also a recipient of Blue Lake Rancheria fellowship for clean energy studies and a graduate research assistant at the Schatz Center. My primary interest lies in providing electricity access to rural communities through renewable energy technologies. I am writing my thesis on identifying the techno-economic feasibility of solar water pumping for public facilities in rural parts of Nigeria. At the Center, I am working on the development of a quality assurance framework for these systems, to provide guidance for gathering necessary data, assessing the hydro-geologic conditions, and designing an off-grid groundwater extraction and delivery system.

Before coming to HSU, I worked as a project engineer with the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Government of India. My work primarily revolved around promoting energy efficiency in small and large industries and appliances. This summer, I began research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory focused on identifying the electrification potential for heavy industries, including cement, iron, and steel, in India. The project aims to identify the parity price at which electrification via renewable energy technologies can become feasible – with the end goal of reducing coal demand and mitigating CO2 emissions.

~ Anamika Singh

Quality Matters: a new report from Lighting Global

The Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program works to ensure that solar products sold around the globe meet established quality standards for product durability, representation of product performance, and warranty. To obtain quality verification, manufacturers may submit products for testing at laboratories in the Lighting Global network.

Pico-solar products include lanterns and simple systems with a peak PV module power up to 10 watts. These small systems encompass 85% of the global cumulative sales of off-grid solar devices. Although more than 30 million quality assured off-grid solar products have been sold globally over the past eight years, the sales numbers for products that do not undergo quality verification (hence are “non-QV”) is even higher. Field observations and customer experiences indicate that non-QV products typically underperform compared to the standards established by Lighting Global.

In order to ascertain the actual performance of these devices, Lighting Global laboratories recently tested 17 pico-solar non-QV products that are top-sellers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria and Tanzania. Products were purchased direct from market retailers.

Key results:

All 17 evaluated products failed to meet the Lighting Global Quality Standards for pico-PV products.

  • 94% of the tested products fail to meet the Standards due to one or more deficiency that
    affects product durability.
  • 88% of the tested products inaccurately advertise product performance.
  • 88% of the tested products do not include a consumer-facing warranty.
  • 76% of the tested products would require significant changes to product design and
    components to meet the Quality Standards.

The Lighting Global Quality Assurance team issued the report this August as part of the Technical Notes series. Chris Carlsen (a Schatz Center alumnus) led the effort in collaboration with team members from CLASP, the Schatz Center, World Bank Group regional lighting programs, and the Lighting Global network of test labs.

Read the complete report on the Lighting Global website…

Corroded batteries, shown inside and removed from the product

NiMH batteries with leaked electrolyte: When a battery is faulty, of low quality, or stored at a deeply discharged state, the battery cell can rupture and leak electrolyte. The battery pack in this product was not functional, and has leaked corrosive chemicals that damaged adjacent electronic components. – From page 12 of the Quality Matters report

Schatz Energy Spring/Summer Newsletter

Our print (and pdf) newsletter is just off the press, with features & updates on:

  • the Redwood Coast Airport (ACV) microgrid
  • breaking ground on Solar+ at the Blue Lake Rancheria
  • the California Biopower Impact project
  • our recent publications on biomass conversion technologies
  • the May dedication of the West Wing addition, and
  • HSU’s first EV charging station, unveiled at the Schatz Center…

… Plus a recap of our spring education and outreach programs, faculty and fellowship news, and recent conference presentations.

Two middle school students hold solar modules and fans in the sun


Students explore solar circuits at the 2018 Redwood Environmental Education Fair

Schatz Energy interviews on KHSU

Catch up with these recent Schatz Energy interviews on the KHSU Magazine:

Measuring Dirty Fuels to Improve Lives
Show host David Reed with Schatz Center’s Nick Lam • April 13, 2018

Resilience Achieved with Blue Lake Rancheria Microgrid
Show host Katie Whiteside with Schatz Center’s Peter Lehman and Jana Ganion of the Blue Lake Rancheria • April 5, 2018

Do Wind Turbines Make Good Neighbors?
Show host Katie Whiteside with visiting SFSS lecturer Joseph Rand • February 22, 2018

Lectures from the Sustainable Futures Speaker Series are also posted to Humboldt Digital Scholar once available.

April 12 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Energy access, health & the environment

Headshot of Nicholas Lam

    Nicholas Lam

Millions of families worldwide rely on solid and polluting fuels to meet their basic energy needs, such as cooking, heating, and lighting. This talk will discuss how sociological and physical measurement methods are being used to characterize energy needs, estimate the impacts of energy poverty, and identify mitigation opportunities.

Nicholas Lam is a Research Scientist at the Schatz Energy Research Center. His research interests are directed towards improving the welfare and environment of families living in low- and middle- income countries through improvements to the household energy system. Lam has a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences and a M.S. in Global Health and Development from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series at Humboldt State creates interdisciplinary discussion, debate, and collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. Lectures are held on Thursdays from 5:30-7 pm in HSU Founders Hall 118. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, visit our series events page or call (707) 826-4345.