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

SEL Real-Time Automation Controllers

Last week, Schatz Center engineers Dave Carter and Marc Marshall attended a training in Portland, Oregon to learn about the capabilities of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories’ (SEL) Real-Time Automation Controllers (RTAC). Designed for use in utility substations and other industrial control and automation systems, these rugged controllers are powerful, flexible, and configurable.

The Center currently has multiple projects where the SEL RTAC will be used as part of the control system, including the Redwood Coast Airport (ACV) Microgrid. The rigorous three-day training covered a broad range of RTAC capabilities and strengthened our foundation in automation and control for energy efficiency and renewable energy systems.

Dave Carter sitting at a laptop connected to SEL equipment

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories RTAC training

New publication on CA’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Kevin Fingerman, Colin Sheppard, and Andrew Harris recently authored an article on California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Modeling financial least-cost pathways to compliance in Northern California. This paper shares the results of a technoeconomic model developed at the Schatz Center to explore cost-effective pathways for replacing gasoline with alternative vehicle fuels, such as electricity, biodiesel, ethanol, and hydrogen.

Our study focused on six regions within Northern California, with the goal of simulating the most effective pathway to reaching the 10% reduction in transportation fuel greenhouse gas emissions that is mandated by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). Within the study regions, the analysis found that compliance with the LCFS will be more difficult than expected, and that electric vehicles should be expected to play a critical role in achieving vehicle emissions reduction goals.

The article will be published in the August 2018 (Vol 63) edition of Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment and is available to download here in pdf.

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

Director’s Note: June 2018

On May 4, we had the pleasure of hosting the Schatz Center Advisory Board for our annual meeting. In addition to our customary discussion of Center activities and strategy, we were happy to be able to include the Advisory Board members in a dedication ceremony for our new building addition, which we have been calling the ‘West Wing.’

Advisory Board standing outside the West Wing

Schatz Advisory Board members (left to right): Andrea Tuttle, Rick Duke, Jeff Serfass, Jack West, Christina Manansala West, David Rubin, David Katz, and Denise Helwig, and Directors Charles Chamberlin, Peter Lehman and Arne Jacobson. Not pictured: Dan Kammen and Jaimie Levin.

During the meeting, we reported our progress toward the Center’s strategic goals—which are derived from our mission to promote clean and renewable energy—and discussed our portfolio of projects, budget, staffing, and space within this context. We were able to report good news to the Advisory Board in multiple spheres.

We noted that our two most active project areas are those related to (i) renewable energy microgrids, grid integration of renewable energy, and associated demand-side management strategies and (ii) improved access to energy in off-grid and marginal grid communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Together with our partners, we have received recognition for our efforts in both areas: in January alone, the Blue Lake Rancheria renewable energy microgrid was awarded the Project of the Year for Distributed Energy Resources at the annual DistribuTECH conference in San Antonio, Texas, while our energy access team simultaneously played a key role at the premier international conference for the off-grid solar sector, the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo in Hong Kong. We also have current projects and activities in bioenergy, clean transportation, off-shore wind, energy efficiency, hydrogen energy, clean energy policy, and education/outreach. Our staff expertise continues to deepen, and we have ample opportunities for continued work in pursuit of our mission.

Regarding staffing, we have a motivated, skilled, and professional team, and their strengths provide the foundation for our success. Recent additions to the Schatz Center include Dr. Nicholas Lam (research scientist), Kaileigh Vincent-Welling (engineering technician), Richard Williams (engineering technician), and Jessica Ramirez (administrative assistant). We are pleased to welcome them to our team. During the advisory board meeting, we discussed two strategic foci in relation to personnel. We began by noting the importance of expanding our team’s project management capacity to meet the needs of our growing work portfolio. We then discussed our commitment to increasing staff diversity and ensuring a broadly welcoming work environment. We appreciate our board’s thoughtful advice, and we look forward to a continued focus on these key issues.

And, of course, we celebrated our new building and the opportunities that it enables. Importantly, the increase in space—along with a commitment to student mentorship by faculty and staff on our team—has allowed us to hire nine summer student interns. They join seven continuing student employees, for a total of 16 students working with us this summer. This is the largest number of students working at Schatz Center at one time in the history of our organization. We are grateful for the contributions that each student is making to our work, and I thank my colleagues for all that they have done to create hands-on learning opportunities.

Happy summer solstice, and goodbye until next time. ~ Arne Jacobson