Achieving 5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030: the local perspective

On October 11, the Sustainable Futures Speaker Series will host a panel discussion on zero-emission vehicles. For this special event, we’re bringing together experts in local planning, state regulation, mass transit, and advanced fuel infrastructure development, to share strategies for achieving a ZEV rollout on the north coast.

Panelists include:
Closeup photo of a charging car

Download the event flyer

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series at Humboldt State creates interdisciplinary discussion, debate, and collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. Fall 2018 lectures are held on Thursdays from 5:30-7 pm in HSU Siemens Hall 108. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, visit our series events page or call (707) 826-4345.

The Schatz Center roof goes solar

On the last weekend of September, HSU and Schatz Center alumnus Nate Coleman returned to Humboldt State with a team of solar professionals to lead the installation of a photovoltaic array on the roof of the Schatz Energy Research Center. Dodging between downpours, and assisted by Center staff, students, and HSU Facilities Management personnel, the team heroically completed the installation in two days.

The system is now complete except for the final electrical connections and an inspection, and should be live near the end of October. The 20 kilowatt (DC) array will produce an average of 57 kilowatt-hours per day, enough to completely power the Center’s new West Wing, with 25 kWh left over to power the main building.

The eighty modules of the solar array and the proprietary mounting hardware and connectors were donated to Humboldt State from Zep Solar through the efforts of Coleman and Jack West — a member of the Center’s Advisory Board and also an alumnus of the university.

Ahn and Greg insert a module into its place

Anh Bui and Greg Ball leverage a module into position

Later this year, an array display will be installed outside the Center. Visitors will be able to see a live report of energy generated by the array, plus rooftop weather data that directly impacts array efficiency: solar radiation, air temperature and relative humidity, wind speed and direction, and the temperature of the modules. The monitor will also feature project news from the Schatz Center and data from the onsite EV charging station. The interpretive display has been funded by HEIF, the student-run Humboldt Energy Independence Fund, and NorthCAT, the Northern California Center for Alternative Transportation Fuels and Advanced Vehicle Technologies. HEIF also provided the instrumentation for the data acquisition system.

The Schatz Solar Array installation team included:

  • Solar professionals: Brian Atchley, Greg Ball, Nate Coleman, Marcelo Macedo, and Ryan Woodward
  • HSU Facilities: Charles Day, Travis Fleming, Ray Robinson, and Brian Toroni
  • Students: Anh Bui, Carisse Geronimo, Chih-Wei Hsu, Craig Mitchell, and Anamika Singh
  • Schatz staff: Charles Chamberlin, Nick Lam, Peter Lehman, Marc Marshall, Kyle Palmer, Rich Williams, and Jim Zoellick
Nate and Marcelo on the roof

Nate Coleman and Marcelo Macedo prepare the Schatz roof for module installation

Jim and Carisse set a thermocouple on the white backside of a module

Jim Zoellick shows Carisse Geronimo where to place a thermocouple on the back of a solar panel

Jim, Charles and Ray consult the module layout plan

Jim Zoellick, Charles Chamberlin, and Ray Robinson review the module layout plan

Chih-Wei and Ray remove a panel from the stack on the lift, while Charles holds the remainder

Charles Day delivers solar panels via hydraulic lift to Chih-Wei Hsu and Ray Robinson

Craig twists a module mount near the edge of the roof

Craig Mitchell tightens mounting hardware on the Schatz roof

Charles Chamberlin holds the specialized mounting hardware

“The mounting hardware works like a charm.” – Peter Lehman

Marcelo bends close to the roof to view a connection

Marcelo Macedo inspects hardware connections

Anh works at the base of a rain-covered module

Anh Bui attaches modules to the roof

Travis and Ray transport panels in a hydraulic lift with redwoods behind

Travis Fleming and Ray Robinson lift solar panels from the courtyard to the Schatz roof

Nate, Peter and Craig crimp roof bars

Craig Mitchell, Peter Lehman, and Nate Coleman (l to r) prepare the roof for mounting hardware

The installation team stands on the roof next to the assembled array

The module installation is complete!

Solar+ project continues in Blue Lake

The Solar+ project at the Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR) hit high gear this summer, with activity across our research and design areas — from engineering to market assessment. Our project is at the halfway point, with construction underway and plans afoot for experiments to run once we are operational next year. It has been rewarding to see progress towards a standardized package for microgrids at the building scale.

Over the summer, our engineering designs came into form as the PV array was installed at the Rancheria’s “Playstation 777” fueling station and convenience store. Our partners at BLR have been working closely with us to coordinate the construction and installation of a 60 kW array of high efficiency SunPower modules on the fueling area canopy. Later this year we will install control devices, switchgear, and other microgrid components.

Overhead shot shows solar modules on the canopy of the fueling station

Drone photo of the PV array under construction, September 2018 (courtesy of the BLR)

In parallel to our work designing and installing the microgrid hardware, project partners at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have been developing the control software that will eventually manage the microgrid. Building off the open source XBOS (“Extensible Building Operating System”) framework, the LBNL team has been adding model-predictive control and communications features needed to optimize the operation of our energy systems. We are in the testing phase for this software now, and look forward to its installation and operation in 2019.

Along with our progress on the prototype installation for our Solar+ microgrid design, we have been synthesizing our overall experience in microgrid design and development. Our cross-site analysis is helping us to model the current costs and benefits of microgrids based on the characteristics of a site — and we are looking ahead to future prices for PV, storage, and integration technology to understand possible deployment pathways for microgrids at scale.

We made a lot of progress this summer, thanks in great part to a crew of excellent summer research assistants. René DeWees and Ellen Thompson joined our market and data analysis team, and helped model the costs of microgrids (along with big contributions from Jo Caminiti and Thalia Quinn). Craig Mitchell joined the hardware design and construction team, and provided important on-site research observation and engineering support as we worked on building the PV array.

Woody biomass poster & presentation given at the annual ARI meeting

In September, Sintana Vergara and Cassidy Barrientos presented on bioenergy and biomass emissions at the annual CSU Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) meeting in Sacramento.

Sintana presented ongoing research on the environmental implications of using residual woody biomass — a timber industry byproduct — as an energy resource, specifically within California. Ongoing work to develop a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for evaluating the climate change implications of mobilizing woody biomass for electricity production has uncovered a potentially significant source of greenhouse gas emissions: storage of woody biomass. Current work, funded by ARI, is now focused on characterizing these emissions.

Cassidy assisted with Sintana’s talk, and also presented a poster synthesizing what we know about greenhouse gas emissions from woody biomass. This poster presented a literature review of published studies that directly measured carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions from woody biomass stockpiles.

A jpeg of the linked pdf poster

Tour the Schatz Center on first Fridays!

We invite you to join us on the first Friday of each month, for a free tour of the Schatz Center. Learn about our current projects and areas of research — including smart grids, off-grid energy access, bioenergy, clean transportation, energy education, and more.

Tours are held from 11 am to noon. Due to space constraints, tour reservations are required. We’re also happy to schedule tours for campus visitors and local groups. Call (707) 826-4345 or email serc@humboldt.edu to rsvp for the monthly tour, or to make a group reservation.

Please note that Schatz Center facilities are not open to the public on a drop-in basis.

Overhead view of Schatz Center facilities

October 4 lecture: A Rising Tide Lifts All Bytes

A rising tide lifts all bytes: marine energy R&D at the Pacific Marine Energy Center

Humanity has been harnessing tidal power for more than 1,000 years, and producing electricity from tides for more than 100 years. Tidal electricity generation is greenhouse gas-free, eminently predictable, sub-sea surface, and often co-located with demand; yet tidal power has seen slower adoption and deployment than other renewables such as wind or solar power. In this talk, Dr. Benjamin Maurer will share what the Pacific Marine Energy Center is doing to address the remaining key challenges in tidal power and how that R&D plays into the changing market landscape for marine energy. From autonomous subsea robotics to underwater data centers, he’ll cover the promise and potential pitfalls of this renewable energy resource.

Benjamin Maurer headshot

Maurer is the Associate Director of the Pacific Marine Energy Center, a multi-university consortium dedicated to the responsible advancement of ocean energy technologies, and a researcher at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. He works closely with undergraduate and graduate students, startups, large corporations, regulators, government clients, and other stakeholders to address key challenges in harvesting power from the waves, tides, currents, and offshore winds. Maurer’s prior work includes positions supporting a $100M/yr US Department of Energy portfolio of ocean technology technology awards; conducting fluid dynamics experiments at the University of Cambridge GK Batchelor Laboratory; and piloting ROVs for the National Marine Fisheries Service. He holds a PhD in Oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an MS in Engineering Sciences from UC, San Diego, and undergraduate degrees in Biology and Philosophy also from UCSD. He is an avid surfer, swimmer, and research diver.

Download the event flyer

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series at Humboldt State creates interdisciplinary discussion, debate, and collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. Fall 2018 lectures are held on Thursdays from 5:30-7 pm in HSU Siemens Hall 108. For details on upcoming events or to request accessibility accommodations, visit our series events page or call (707) 826-4345.

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

Electrifying transportation at HSU

Two cars, with the fuel lines crossing over each other, charge beneath redwoods

HSU’s first electric vehicle station has already provided 60 “charge ups” in the month since fall semester began. Vehicles charged for an average of 2 hours, obtaining an average of 8 kWh of energy, up to a maximum of 31 kWh — and there were 16 times where the primary EV and the ADA parking spot were charging simultaneously.

Since the EV station was installed in early May, it has provided 126 charge ups, that powered 3,600 miles of travel, and avoided the combustion of 117 gallons of gasoline and the emission of 800 kg of CO2e.*

On October 11 at 5:30 pm in Siemens Hall 108, the Sustainable Futures Speaker Series will host a panel discussion on “Achieving 5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030.” Experts from local planning, state regulation, mass transit, and advanced fuel infrastructure development will share strategies for achieving a zero-emission vehicle rollout on the north coast.

A plot shows each charging event at the station, with three slopes -- initial at .5 charges per day, summer at .9 charges per day, and current at 2.3 charging events per day.

This plot shows the increasing use of the station since installation – from less than one charge per day in May, to more than two charges per day since fall semester began. Vehicles may charge for up to four hours at a time. – Graph by Charles Chamberlin, derived from live station data

HSU’s EV charging station is located to the south of the Schatz Energy Research Center (across from the BSS building on the south side of campus). This station can provide charging for either of two adjacent parking spaces. One parking space is EV-only; parking here is limited to four hours, and the vehicle must be charging while parked. The second space is ADA parking (EV not required). HSU parking permits are required for both spaces.

*We assume a vehicle efficiency of 0.325 kWh/mi for EVs, and 31 mpg for gasoline vehicles. Carbon emissions are calculated using the gasoline carbon intensity of 8,815 g CO2e/gallon from EPA emission estimates, and HSU’s 2016 electricity carbon intensity of 192 g CO2e/kWh. (The electricity carbon intensity is the emissions rate associated with the power currently being purchased or generated by a particular source.)

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

Summer Camp Energy Outreach

A student attaches a solar module to a fan


A Robotics student attaches a solar module to a fan


On Tuesday afternoon, we joined the Yurok Tribe’s summer camp at the mouth of the Klamath River, to explore solar and wind power with elementary and middle school students. On Thursday, the HSU Robotics Camp met with the Center’s Lighting Lab team to learn about our off-grid solar product testing and build simple circuits.

Schatz docent Matilda Kerwin is working with the Robotics Camp this summer, and was interviewed this week on KIEM-TV about the program.

We will also be participating in the HSU Natural History Museum’s Careers of the Future Camp for ages 8-12 this July. Registration links for upcoming camps are below!

A student and counselor attach solar modules to a fan


A student and counselor construct a simple solar circuit