SERC Completes Energy Planning Project for the Trinidad Rancheria

Readers of this newsletter may recall that the Summer 2015 issue contained a short piece about an energy planning project we conducted for the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria. Funded by a grant from The Bureau of Indian Affairs Energy and Mineral Development Program, this multi-faceted project had the overall goal of reducing the tribe’s energy consumption, costs, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the implementation of energy efficiency measures and, possibly, producing renewable energy locally.

The project has since been completed and there is much to report.

Use Assessment
The initial phase of the project entailed a comprehensive assessment of recent energy use for the Rancheria’s multiple commercial facilities including the Cher-Ae-Heights Casino, the Seascape Restaurant, and tribal offices. Available information pertaining to the consumption of electricity, propane, diesel fuel, and gasoline, as well as the equipment involved, was cataloged. CasinoGreen, a PG&E subcontractor specializing in retrofits of Native American owned casinos, was responsible for examining the casino, while Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) covered the remaining facilities. RCEA also completed a comprehensive GHG inventory utilizing an Excel spreadsheet tool they developed in-house.

Results show electricity use in all tribal facilities accounts for 77% of energy costs and over 60% of all GHG emissions. Unsurprisingly, the casino is responsible for over 75% of total energy costs and more than 80% of all GHG emissions, but it is interesting to note that the Seascape Restaurant comes in second at 10% of costs and 9% of GHG.

Efficiency Assessment
Lighting accounts for a substantial portion of all electrical consumption, particularly for the casino, which operates around the clock. As lighting technology has changed considerably in recent years, the energy efficiency of available products greatly exceeds that of the equipment currently in use by the tribe. As a result there are great savings to be had by retrofitting their facilities.

CasinoGreen provided an extensive list of lighting upgrades for the casino, primarily focused on the replacement of existing equipment with new LED lamp, ballast and fixture packages. In total, the changes they suggest could save the tribe an estimated $21,000/year. Available rebates will defray the upfront installation costs considerably while the balance can be financed by PG&E’s Energy Efficiency Retrofit Loan Program. This zero- interest On-Bill Financing program for energy retrofits is paid off via normal monthly payments that credit the money saved due to the new equipment toward the loan balance, which is expected to be paid off in about four years.

In the early stages of the project, RCEA determined that the tribe could save more than $3,000/year by simply changing the Seascape’s PG&E account to a different rate. This was done with alacrity. Further recommendations for lighting and refrigeration efficiency upgrades could save an additional $2,600 annually for the restaurant. As with the casino, installation costs can be covered by rebates and On-Bill Financing. These improvements should pay for themselves in less than four years.

RCEA recommendations for the remaining facilities consist primarily of upgrading interior fluorescent tube lighting systems to LED technology, with some exterior lighting upgrades as well. These changes should have a payback period of just under five years.

Renewables
Following SERC’s examination of the potential for various on-site renewable energy resources, the project team concluded that solar electricity is the most economically viable technology for the tribe to pursue. We recommended three suitable sites for roof top installation: the Trinidad Pier bathroom and water treatment plant, the Trinidad Pier Guest House, and the tribal office building. These sites could accommodate systems of 8.2kW, 2.1kW, and 10.5kW respectively. As the Rancheria has sovereign nation status, they do not pay taxes, which in turn means that they do not qualify for the 30% tax credit or accelerated depreciation benefits available to those in the private sector. As a result, payback periods are noticeably longer (9 – 11 years) than for systems installed by private businesses with substantial tax obligations. Nevertheless, an investment in this technology would pay for itself over a reasonable time frame, and the electrical energy generated by these systems would continue to reduce the Rancheria’s dependence on PG&E long into the future.

Greenhouse Gases
If all of the recommendations discussed in this article were to be implemented, the tribe could reduce its GHG emissions by 65.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This amounts to a nearly 10% reduction of the tribe’s estimated GHG emissions associated with current electricity usage levels.

SERC would like to thank the Trinidad Rancheria for the chance to perform this energy assessment work. We are pleased to have found numerous opportunities for the tribe to reduce energy costs, decrease GHG emissions, and increase energy security. We look forward to supporting the tribe in their future efforts to meet their sustainable energy goals.

SERC Display Illuminates Efficient Solar Home Power Systems

SERC’s Lighting Lab recently finished testing efficient DC lighting products for use with off-grid solar home systems, as part of a competition administered by the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP) Awards program. To highlight the awards program, SERC incorporated some of the winning products into a tabletop display illustrating the difference between a solar-powered system with inefficient lighting and one that uses state-of the-art LED lighting and super-efficient appliances. The display was then presented at the Fifth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM5) conference in Seoul, South Korea, on May 12 and 13, where ministers, energy officials, and observers from more than 21 countries and the European Union were in attendance. This year’s slogan was “Act Together, Think Creative.”

Each system includes a 40 watt (W) solar panel, a charge controller, and a 70Ahr battery. In the “inefficient” system, these power a single 25 W incandescent bulb for five hours a day. In the “super-efficient” system, the same solar panel and battery can power two LED lights, each brighter than the 25 W incandescent, for five hours a day; one radio for five hours a day; one 13 W super-efficient flat panel television for over three hours a day; one 6 W super-efficient fan for four hours a day; and one cell phone charger.

Clearly, the use of high efficiency appliances can greatly enrich people’s lives.

CEM5 display

Efficient solar home power system tabletop display.Photograph courtesy of IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

This project was a collaboration between the US Department of Energy (US DOE), the Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standard Program (CLASP), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and SERC. Our team at SERC designed and built the portable display, while Carolyn McGregor of the US DOE, Matt Jordan of CLASP and Won Young Park of LBNL attended the CEM5 conference and manned the booth.

RePowering Humboldt with Community Scale Renewable Energy

repower-banner

In March of this year, along with our partner, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), we completed the three-year RePower Humboldt project funded by the California Energy Commission (CEC). A key deliverable, the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan, identified future energy scenarios for Humboldt County in which local renewable energy resources could provide over 75 percent of local electricity needs and a significant portion of heating and transportation energy needs by 2030. The plan pinpoints biomass and wind energy as key resources. In addition, large-scale adoption of plug-in electric vehicles and heat pumps was found to be critical to the cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, the RePower Humboldt team is looking for opportunities to put the plan into action.

At our final project review meeting in Sacramento, CEC project manager Mike Sokol mentioned how impressed the CEC has been with the quality of our work. Now they have backed up this praise with a proposed award to begin implementing the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan.  The follow-on grant, a $1.75 million award, again partners SERC with RCEA and also includes the Blue Lake Rancheria as a new project partner. Our proposal was ranked third among 30 submissions and was one of only four awards in our research area.

The new project, called Repowering Humboldt with Community Scale Renewable Energy, is expected to begin in June of 2013 and will run through March of 2015. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate and validate key aspects of the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan.  The project will include two main elements: SERC will lead the design and installation of a first-of-its-kind woody biomass gasifier and fuel cell power system, and RCEA will implement a community-based energy upgrade program.

The biomass energy system will be installed at the Blue Lake Rancheria casino and hotel where it will supply about a third of the electric power needs. It will feature a Proton Power gasifier that turns sawdust-sized woody biomass into hydrogen fuel, and a 175-kW Ballard fuel cell that generates electricity from hydrogen. Waste heat from the system will be used to meet hot water needs. We aim to achieve a biomass-to-electricity efficiency double that of a comparable-scale, conventional steam power plant. If successful, this project could open up a new market for distributed-scale, biomass combined heat and power systems.

The energy upgrade component will focus on services for residences and businesses in the Mad River valley community (City of Blue Lake, Blue Lake Rancheria, and surrounding areas), including energy efficiency, solar energy systems, heat pumps, and the installation of two electric vehicle charging stations. This energy upgrade will demonstrate a comprehensive, community-based energy services model that can be replicated throughout the state.

The RePowering Humboldt with Community Scale Renewable Energy project is an exciting effort that will help move Humboldt County toward a secure energy future. Watch for updates in future newsletters as the project unfolds.

All project documents for the RePower Humboldt project, including the strategic plan, a regulatory and policy guide on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and other technical reports and memos can be accessed on SERC’s web page here.

Photo credit: Malene Thyssen (wave) and Bin vim Garten (vehicle).

SERC Helps HSU Tackle Campus Energy Use

SERC is in its third year of providing technical mentoring to HSU’s Humboldt Energy Independence Fund (HEIF). This innovative program collects a small fee from each HSU student every semester and uses this pool of funding to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on campus. Among the many projects completed to date are a photovoltaic system on a campus rooftop and a retrofit of playfield lighting in the Redwood Bowl stadium. HEIF projects include student participation from initial idea development to full design and implementation. Students also participate actively alongside faculty and staff in HEIF program governance.

SERC engineers Richard Engel and Tom Quetchenbach currently oversee two teams of paid student HEIF interns. This year’s projects include:

  • a comprehensive inventory of campus lighting. Results are being shared with campus building maintenance staff, who will use the data to set lighting retrofit priorities.
  • development of energy-efficiency standards for campus remodels. Students are working with the campus Facilities Planning office to ensure such standards are used to specify new equipment, starting with energy-saving light fixtures.
  • creation of computer models to design indoor and outdoor retrofit projects for stage lighting in the music department’s main recital hall and roadway lighting for a campus entrance.

Tom and Richard support these projects by meeting regularly with the students, helping them plan their work, take field measurements, learn to use software, and solve other engineering problems.

HEIF interns and SERC mentor pore over campus building drawings.

The HEIF building standards team includes (left to right) interns Eric Sorensen and Danielle Burkhart and SERC mentor Tom Quetchenbach. Photo credit Michael Fisher.

Speaker Series: Jonathan Woolley on Radically Efficient Design for Zero Net Energy Buildings

We are pleased to announce Jonathan Woolley of UC Davis as the next presenter in the spring 2013 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Jonathan will speak on Thursday, March 28 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in the Behavior and Sciences Building room 166 (BSS 166) on the HSU campus. The title of his talk is “Radically Efficient Design for Zero Net Energy Buildings.”

Jonathan Woolley is an Associate Engineer with the Western Cooling Efficiency Center at the University of California Davis. Woolley’s building science research focuses on Zero Net Energy Buildings using both passive techniques and energy efficient mechanical systems. Woolley is involved in design, development and control of energy efficient mechanical systems with full-scale demonstration and evaluation in commercial and residential buildings.

Mr. Woolley will present about the integrative design of a Zero Net Energy home in Davis, CA that will generate enough electricity on site to cover household needs, and provide energy for an electric vehicle. The home employs many innovative design techniques including a highly-insulated building envelope, radiant heating and cooling, grey water heat recovery, passive ventilation, very high efficiency nighttime cooling strategies, and multi-function mechanical systems to provide heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. The home is slated for construction in 2013 and will support California’s goals for Zero Net Energy residential construction by 2020.

We hope that you will join us for the talk.

RePower Humboldt Plan Pivots on Local Renewable Resources

SERC and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) have unveiled their joint RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan, spelling out how local renewable resources can be used to meet the majority of Humboldt County’s electricity needs and a large portion of its transportation and heating energy needs as well.  The plan lays out an array of opportunities and recommends a set of actions that would create jobs, stimulate the local economy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase local energy security.

The RePower Humboldt plan is the result of more than two years of research, analysis and community involvement.  According to Matthew Marshall, Executive Director of RCEA, “renewable energy development has the potential to provide significant economic, environmental and energy security benefits to our region.  We’re excited to share the plan with the community and begin a dialog about our options moving forward.”

SERC Director Arne Jacobson said, “If California is to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, which call for an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050, we will need some regions to lead the way by scaling up clean energy use decades earlier. Humboldt County has the opportunity to serve as a positive example in this regard, and the RePower Humboldt plan can act as a road map to get us there.”
Key recommendations in the plan include:

• Aggressively pursue cost-effective energy efficiency   opportunities

• Support responsible wind energy development.

• Expand the use of biomass energy that is consistent with forest restoration needs and priorities.

• Develop infrastructure for and encourage the use of electric vehicles.

• Encourage development of distributed energy installations.

• Pursue options for local development and ownership of renewable energy projects, as well as local purchase of the power generated.

• Form an energy leadership group to move the plan forward.

 

A public draft of the plan is now available and the community is encouraged to review it and provide feedback, either on-line at www.redwoodenergy.org/programs/repower or www.schatzlab.org/repower or in-person at the RCEA, 517 5th Street, Eureka, 707-269-1700.

Public comment on the plan will be accepted through October 26th for incorporation in a final version.

Cover page of the draft RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan

Note: RePower Humboldt is the result of work conducted under the Humboldt County Renewable Energy Secure Community (RESCO) project. The RePower Humboldt name, rather than RESCO, will be used to refer to this effort in the future.

New RESCO Products: Strategic Plan, Guide for Local Leaders

The Humboldt Renewable Energy Secure Communities (RESCO) project is nearing completion, and we’re close to publishing two new products, a RESCO strategic plan and a guide for local government on energy policy and regulations.

Humboldt County has the opportunity to lead the way toward a renewable energy future by using local renewable energy resources to meet the majority of its electricity needs and a large portion of its heating and transportation needs.  To accomplish this in an efficient, cost-effective manner will require a well thought-out plan.  The RESCO strategic plan lays out such a road map.

Comparison of future energy scenarios

Figure 1. Comparison of energy production by generation source as a fraction of total county demand for electricity in 2030.

The plan discusses three potential future energy scenarios for the year 2030 (see figure 1, below):  business-as-usual, bold, and peakBusiness-as-usual assumes we maintain our current sources of energy, bold assumes we develop an optimal mix of new efficiency and renewable energy resources while capping overall cost increases at 5% above business-as-usual, and peak assumes we develop all that is practically achievable.  Technologies considered include: energy efficiency, small hydro, wind, plug-in electric vehicles, heat pumps, biomass, wave, and solar power. The costs and benefits of these scenarios and technologies are considered.  Finally, a set of long-term strategies and near-term next steps are presented.

The other important deliverable nearing completion is a handbook for local policymakers to help them take leadership roles on bringing more renewable energy and energy efficiency to Humboldt County. The guide posits a number of questions (How can local governments capture the financial benefits of generating their own renewable energy? How can local governments encourage and support the private development of local renewable energy and energy efficiency?) and lays out action-oriented responses tailored to conditions in Humboldt County. The guide presents examples of many ways in which Humboldt County has already acted as a leader on energy policy and identifies examples from elsewhere that may work well with a local twist.

SERC Helps Turn Schools Green

Windsor high school SEAT class

SERC engineer Richard Engel and students at the SEAT class show off their energy auditing tools. (Photo Credit SERC)

Over the past two years, SERC has worked with the Washington, DC-based Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) on the creation of an energy efficiency curriculum intended for nationwide use in high schools. The curriculum, known as Student Energy Auditor Training (SEAT), teaches students about energy by having them perform an energy audit on their own campus. SERC staff have pilot-taught the three-day curriculum in a half dozen schools across northern California, receiving positive reviews from students and teachers. In several cases, schools have gone on to make energy-saving upgrades based on the students’ recommendations.

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Sustainable Energy for the Yurok Nation

Yurok Energy Efficiency Training Week

SERC engineer Jim Zoellick explains solar hot water and solar electric technologies to Yurok tribe members participating in an intensive two week course on energy. (Photo Credit SERC)

The Yurok Tribe, whose remote homeland stretches from the seashore to the inland mountains of northwest California, are close neighbors of SERC. We have worked with the Yurok on a number of occasions, helping them to power a telecommunications repeater station with a SERC fuel cell and build an off-grid residential solar power system to provide tribal elders with reliable electricity. Communities located on the mountainous Yurok Reservation are among the last few in California that have never been connected to the statewide electric power grid…and are also some of the poorest in the state. This situation results in a population with special energy needs.

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