A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3Activities on the Humboldt State campus have slowed down for the summer, but we are still very busy here at SERC. The articles in this newsletter highlight some of our current activity. As Colin Sheppard’s article indicates, we have been engaged in analysis related to planning for plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) infrastructure development in Humboldt County. We are also working on a similar analysis for three other northern California counties and are exploring other project possibilities.  All of this work fits into SERC’s longstanding tradition of enabling expanded use of clean transportation technology in the U.S. and beyond.

In this issue we also describe two new biomass energy efforts at SERC. One of these projects, involving torrefaction technology, is motivated by a desire to reduce the cost of transporting biomass fuel from the forest to end-use sites. The second effort explores conversion of biomass-derived sugars into hydrogen, which can then be injected into engines to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. These projects represent important progress in SERC’s bio-energy research, and, in both cases, we are grateful for funding support from the California Energy Commission (CEC).  We will start additional bio-energy work soon on a $1.75M CEC-funded project involving collaboration with the Blue Lake Rancheria, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, and Ballard Power Systems.

We also remain busy on the international front. Our work with the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs continues to involve laboratory, field, and policy activities. In the lab this summer, we are grateful to have participation by student assistants Melissa Lancaster and John Hunter. Recent activities have taken team members to Kenya, Tanzania, India, and Bangladesh. Additionally, last month I attended meetings hosted by the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) in Munich, Germany on the sidelines of Intersolar-Europe. As reported in our last newsletter, we are also working on a feasibility analysis and design for solar powered mini-grids in India. Two members of our team, Richard Engel and Brendon Mendonça, traveled to India last month as part of this effort.

Last but not least, we recently received good news related to the cost of education for some of our graduate students. Over the years, a number of graduate students from the Energy Technology and Policy (ETaP) and Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) options of the Environmental Systems (ES) Graduate Program have worked at SERC. The ES Graduate Program was recently accepted by the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which means that students from eligible states will be able to attend HSU at a cost equivalent to the rate for California residents. This makes the ETaP and ERE graduate program options much more affordable for students from these states. This is great for SERC, as it will help us recruit talented students from western states such as Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, and others. More information is available on the ETaP and ERE graduate program websites. Goodbye until next time.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3On April 5th, SERC hosted the first meeting of its new Advisory Board. The formation of the board represents an important milestone for our center. The board is a dynamic group with deep experience in the clean energy sector, and they are well positioned to help us enhance our ability to achieve our mission of promoting clean and renewable energy.

If renewable energy is to make a difference in addressing the major environmental problems of our times, it must continue to move from the margins into the mainstream. During the board meeting, the SERC team reported on the recently completed RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan, which confirms that Humboldt County is well positioned to play a leading role in this effort. As senior research engineer Jim Zoellick reports in this issue, the strategic plan includes an analysis of the potential to dramatically scale up the use of renewable energy in Humboldt County.

The results are interesting and promising. They indicate that Humboldt County can meet 75% or more of its electricity needs and a substantial percentage of its transportation and heating requirements by 2030 using renewable energy at only a modest increase in cost. Meeting these targets would result in reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are on the order of 35% to 45% relative to the expected business-as-usual trajectory.

If successful, an effort to achieve these goals would have significance that goes well beyond Humboldt County. Back in 2009, President Obama set a target of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 83% by 2050 (relative to 2005 baseline emissions).  For the country to have a chance to meet that target, some regions need to lead the way by achieving substantial reductions much earlier. The challenge is a big one, and Humboldt County has the renewable energy resource base, prior track record, and environmental ethic to play a leadership role. The RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan provides a vision and a roadmap that we can use to move forward. And, as Jim explains, some next step activities are already underway in the form of a CEC funded project involving collaboration between SERC, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, and the Blue Lake Rancheria.

The board also heard about SERC’s education and outreach work. Over the past year, SERC’s clean energy education programs have reached over 1,000 students and community members. In addition to activities in schools and university classes, SERC provides mentorship to students working to reduce the environmental impact of energy use on the Humboldt State campus through projects funded by the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund (HEIF).  In this issue, senior research engineer Richard Engel writes about our work to support HEIF projects, one of the latest efforts in SERC’s longstanding tradition of training and mentoring students.

The board was very interested in SERC’s international project portfolio, including our work in support of quality assurance for off-grid lighting in Africa and Asia.  In this newsletter, research engineer Kristen Radecsky recounts the recent successful technical training workshop that she helped lead for the Solar Lighting Laboratory at TERI University in New Delhi, India. This work is part of a broader effort associated with the Lighting Asia and Lighting Africa initiatives to develop a network of laboratories which can evaluate the quality and performance of off-grid lighting and energy systems that provide critical energy services to people in rural areas of Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

Also in this issue, Richard reports about a new international project related to the use of solar powered mini-grids for rural electrification in India. The effort involves collaboration with partners including E3 and Black & Veatch.

I will close by extending a special thanks to our Advisory Board for taking the time to serve on our behalf. It was a pleasure having them here at SERC, and I look forward to more productive sessions over the coming years. Goodbye until next time.

Lighting Lab: TERI Solar Lighting Laboratory

Over the past several months, SERC has worked closely with the Solar Lighting Laboratory of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, India to support their effort to join the network of test laboratories affiliated with the Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program. Lighting Global, which is affiliated with the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs, is a joint initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank. The program supports the development of commercial markets for affordable, quality-assured lighting products for use in off-grid areas of Africa and Asia. Most products evaluated under the program are solar-charged LED lights for rural applications. A strong network of product testing laboratories is the backbone of the Lighting Global effort.

TERI-trng

SERC research engineer Kristen Radecsky answers questions about solar module testing during the technical training session at TERI University in New Delhi, India.

In March, SERC director Arne Jacobson and research engineer Kristen Radecsky traveled to New Delhi to complete a hands-on training with the Solar Lighting Laboratory. They worked alongside HSU graduate and SERC alum Brendon Mendonca and Lighting Global team member Kevin Gauna. The training covered all aspects of the Lighting Global Quality Test Methods. The methods verify the quality of products by checking product ratings, and measure product parameters such as daily hours of operation, lighting output, and solar power production. They also evaluate parameters related to product durability such as LED life, shock resistance, and workmanship of electrical and mechanical parts. The training’s success will be an asset to the Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program, as the laboratory’s strategic location at the TERI University in New Delhi, India will facilitate testing of products made and sold in India.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3The last few months have been busy ones at SERC. As outlined in this issue, we continue to be active on several efforts related to hydrogen and fuel cells. One especially notable milestone, led by Senior Research Engineer Greg Chapman, was completion of an upgrade to our hydrogen fueling station. It is now capable of fueling vehicles to 700 bar pressure. This is an exciting step forward that will allow us to drive fuel cell powered vehicles back and forth to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

We have also been busy with several efforts related to access to energy for people in off-grid areas of Africa, Asia, and beyond. Research Engineer Tom Quetchenbach writes about recent work related to renewable energy mini-grids, and Research Engineer Meg Harper describes our participation in the 3rd International Off-Grid Lighting Conference and Trade Fair, held from November 13 to 15 in Dakar, Senegal. The conference was organized and sponsored by Lighting Africa, a joint initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank. I was on the conference organizing committee, and many of us from SERC were involved in preparations for the meeting.

In many ways, the conference was a reunion for SERC staff, alum, and long-time collaborators who have worked on energy access and off-grid lighting over the past several years. The SERC crew included Kristen Radecsky, Patricia Lai, and me. SERC alumni in attendance were Peter Alstone, Jennifer Tracy, and Chris Carlsen. Many long-time collaborators (too many to mention) from Lighting Africa, the Lumina Project, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a host of private sector firms and government agencies were also there.

What drew us all together in Dakar for a few days of intense conversation and networking? As many of you know, rechargeable LED lamps have emerged as an affordable alternative to fuel-based lighting in many off-grid areas of Africa, Asia, and beyond. Commercial sales of quality assured off-grid lighting and energy systems have skyrocketed as the products have gotten better, prices have dropped, and companies have become increasingly successful at reaching low-income off-grid customers. The meeting in Dakar was aimed at sustaining and accelerating this progress through information exchange, strategic discussions, and networking.

There was a buzz in the halls at the conference, and the attendees had good reason to be excited. The rapid emergence of LED-based off-grid lighting has some very positive implications. Solar-charged LED lights typically save off-grid families and businesses money from reduced expenditure on lighting fuel. Many of the products also charge mobile phones, which can lead to additional savings. In addition, the health benefits of a transition away from kerosene lighting are large. A new report sponsored by the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP) details kerosene lighting’s role in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries annually from fires, explosions, indoor air pollution, and accidental ingestion by infants. Additionally, it seems that the climate change mitigation benefits of measures to reduce kerosene are much larger than previously understood. A recently published study out of UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois indicates that the climate forcing effect of black carbon (soot) emissions from kerosene wick lamps is about 20 times larger than the warming effect of carbon dioxide emissions from the lamps. This provides good motivation to press forward with efforts like Lighting Africa, Lighting Asia, and Global LEAP.

For now, though, we are all looking forward to a little end-of-year rest. Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year.

Lighting Global 2012 Outstanding Product Awards

SERC’s yearlong effort coordinating the Lighting Global 2012 Outstanding Product Awards culminated in the announcement of the award winners at the 3rd International Off-grid Lighting Conference and Trade Fair in Dakar, Senegal in November. This marks the second time SERC has led the Outstanding Product Awards effort; the first was at its inception in 2010. Lighting Global, which is closely associated with the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs, is a joint initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank. The Outstanding Product Awards recognize exceptional off-grid lighting products and seek to encourage the development of quality, affordable lights for the estimated 1.6 billion people in the world who lack access to electricity.  Providing access to quality lighting enables people to reduce their use of expensive fuel-based lighting, such as kerosene lamps, which in turn lowers their exposure to air pollutants, minimizes fire hazards and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions.

Lighting manufacturers entered 25 different products in this year’s competition.  Products were divided into three price-based categories: ‘Budget’ products under $30; ‘Mid-range’ products between $30-$72; and ‘Premium’ products from $72-$135.

An initial screening based on preliminary tests narrowed the candidates down to 16 finalists.  All award finalists underwent a rigorous assessment process involving detailed laboratory testing, evaluation by people living in off-grid areas of Senegal, Kenya, and India, and final judging by a panel of experts. The entire process took over seven months to complete and not only informed the judges, but also provided valuable feedback in the form of test reports and end-user evaluations to the lighting manufacturers.

Focus group participants examine the Sun King™ Pro.

Focus group participants examine the Sun King™ Pro.

SERC played a substantive role in all phases of the assessment.  SERC’s lighting test lab coordinated with the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (FISE) to test the technical performance of the finalist lamps according to the Lighting Global Quality Test Methods.

Concurrently, SERC team members and SERC alum Jennifer Tracy coordinated the field evaluations in which 18 focus groups of 10-12 people in India, Kenya, and Senegal provided end-user perspectives about the products. Each focus group member was able to try out one of the candidate lamps in their home for 1-2 weeks. Following the in-home trials, each group met for a feedback session in which participants reported on and demonstrated their lamps as part of a group discussion. This field feedback was a key part of the judging process.

Finally, SERC served as part of the expert judging panel, which also included experts from the UN Foundation, the German development agency GIZ, the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), and the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs. In making their final selections, the judges considered overall design, technical performance, environmental impacts, truth in advertising, ease of use, special features such as mobile phone charging, end-user perspectives and price.

Several members of SERC’s lighting lab team attended the awards ceremony in Senegal and were thrilled to congratulate the winning manufacturers. All the winning lamps (see photo, below), aside from the winner in the budget category, offer the ability to charge a cell phone in addition to providing high-quality lighting service. The awards ceremony and gala dinner were sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy under the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP). Visit the conference website for a list of product award winners and to view photos from the event.

Graduate Student Research Assistant Patricia Lai looks over this year’s winning products: (from left to right) Marathoner Beacon MB2 380/SooLED B3, Marathoner Beacon MB2 090/SooLED B1, Trony Sundial TSL01, Greenlight Planet’s Sun King™ Pro and Barefoot Power Firefly 2.5. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Graduate Student Research Assistant Patricia Lai looks over this year’s winning products: (from left to right) Marathoner Beacon MB2 380/SooLED B3, Marathoner Beacon MB2 090/SooLED B1, Trony Sundial TSL01, Greenlight Planet’s Sun King™ Pro and Barefoot Power Firefly 2.5. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Following the excitement of the Outstanding Product Awards, SERC’s off-grid lighting team continues to work with the Lighting Global program to promote clean off-grid lighting in the developing world. In the coming months, SERC and the Lighting Global team will expand their efforts beyond Africa to support quality assurance activities related to the IFC’s Lighting Asia program, which launched activities in India in May of 2012 and is planning future work in additional countries including Bangladesh.

Summer Field Season in Kenya

As the spring semester drew to a close the signs of summer crept in:  fewer cars parked on the streets of Arcata, foggy mornings, and SERC staff packing for field work on our international projects.  In early June, we embarked on a trip to Kenya to support our ongoing work with the World Bank / IFC Lighting Africa program, which supports the growing market for clean, efficient, affordable solar lighting in the developing world.

Conducting Product Awards Focus Groups

2012 marks the second time that SERC is coordinating an Outstanding Product Awards Competition for Off-grid Lighting (the first was in 2010).  The awards will be given in November in Dakar, Senegal.  Eighteen groups of 10-12 people in India, Kenya, and Senegal have been selected as field judges and their feedback is a key part of the judging process.  The field judges participate in an initial focus group, and then they try out a product in their home for about a week.  Following the in-home trial, they report back at a final focus group.  The judges in Kenya shared their enthusiasm for the project by welcoming us with songs (that we couldn’t understand well) and dance (that was universally understood) to the initial focus groups.  So far, the process has been a success.  We are coordinating the judging in Kenya along with SERC alum Jennifer Tracy, who is leading the overall field judging process.  SERC Engineer Brendon Mendonca is helping coordinate the judging in India, and Chris Carlsen (another SERC alum) is helping in Senegal.

Research assistant Daniel Koech surveys a shop in Kericho.

Surveying the Market for Off-grid Lighting

In between focus groups, we led a survey of shops that sell off-grid lighting products in three Kenyan towns: Kericho, Brooke, and Talek.  This study is an update to a survey that was completed in 2009.  The new survey shows how the market has changed, and preliminary results suggest that many more good quality, affordable lighting products are available today than were three years ago.

Participants in the “train the trainer” session held at the University of Nairobi.

Training Off-grid Lighting Technicians

As the market for good quality off-grid lighting grows, it is inevitable that some will break, but hopefully not too many.  To help ensure that people with broken lights do not slide back to dirty, expensive, unsafe kerosene lighting, it is critical that service and maintenance technicians are able to fix their lights.  Lighting Africa has begun to train technicians to do just this, and plans to hold a number of trainings over the next year in Kenya.  On June 13, we led a “train the trainer” session to build training capacity that Lighting Africa can deploy.  We prepared for the session by developing a comprehensive training package based on the initial trainings held by Lighting Africa.

A shopkeeper in Talek (100 km off the grid) displays two off-grid lighting products he offers for sale. The one on the right (Sun KingTM) has been tested and met Lighting Africa’s Quality Standards.

Looking Forward

These three activities highlight SERC’s diverse engagement in clean off-grid lighting in the developing world.  Our team’s reach goes from the test lab downstairs at SERC in Arcata all the way to the sitting rooms of off-grid homes in Kenya.  Looking forward we will continue to expand our activities with Lighting Africa, and we are in the early process of similar engagement in India.  We’ll keep you apprised of our continued off-grid lighting work in future posts.

A Message from the Director: Passing the Torch

This is my last director’s column.  After 7 years of newsletters and 23 years at the helm of the Schatz lab, I’ll be entering the faculty early retirement program in mid-August and passing the torch on to Arne Jacobson who will become the lab’s director.

We’re fortunate to have Arne stepping in.  He was one of the first grad students to work at the lab; his master’s thesis concerned work with the electrolyzer at the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project.  He went on to earn his Ph.D. at the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley and now is my colleague in the Environmental Resources Engineering department.  Arne’s long time connection with the lab, his service as co-director for five years, and his strong leadership skills will serve us well for many years to come.  And starting next issue, you’ll get to read his thoughts in this space.

Meanwhile, I’m not going away.  Working here is way too interesting and fun to stop now.  During the five years of my early retirement program, I’ll be known as the Founding Director and share leadership duties with Arne.  I look forward to being busy and involved; maybe I’ll even have a chance to get back into the lab and turn a wrench or two.

In this issue of our newsletter, Peter Alstone and Meg Harper keep us up to date on summer activities in Kenya as part of the Lighting Africa project and Richard Engel writes a tribute to our benefactor Mr. Schatz on the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Jim Zoellick describes a project with local partners to plan for an electric vehicle infrastructure in Humboldt County, Allison Oakland describes our continuing effort to bring fuel cell topics into science education with a teacher workshop, and Greg Chapman describes progress in upgrading our hydrogen fueling station to 700 bar operation.

I’m writing this on the summer solstice as the sun shines its warmth and light on our hemisphere.  I want to thank all you faithful readers and send a fond farewell.  It’s been a joy and a privilege to communicate with you through this column; let’s all keep working to improve the health of our beautiful planet.  Goodbye, thank you, and best wishes.
—Peter—

Lighting Africa’s Product Awards

Lighting Africa Awards

Representatives of the award-winning companies after receiving the awards at the ceremony on May 18th, 2010 at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

LED lighting products, many of which are solar charged, are streaming into the African market and displacing incandescent flashlights and fuel-based lighting. They hold the promise to improve peoples’ lives and reduce global warming emissions that are associated with fuel-based lighting. Unfortunately, the quality of the products is highly variable; many of them fail in a matter of weeks or months and threaten to spoil the market for improved lighting systems. To help differentiate between better quality products and the rest, SERC worked with the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa Program over the last year to administer the Lighting Africa 2010 Outstanding Product Awards–the first awards program of its kind for off-grid lighting products in the African market. On May 18th, 2010, five products were given honors at the Lighting Africa 2010 Global Business Conference and Trade Fair in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Off-Grid Lighting Adventure Continues

Flashlights in Kenyan Market

Flashlights, along with other goods, available from hawkers on the street in central Kericho, Kenya. (Photo credit SERC).

This article was written by Jennifer Tracy.

Despite dust storms stirring up eye-stinging grits of dirt, downpours that filled 50 gallon barrels and donkeys that reverberated piercing 6 AM wake up calls, it was impossible for us not to smile with gratitude and joy. For the second summer running SERC personnel traveled to Kenya to continue our ongoing field research on off-grid, efficient lighting for low income rural people. With help from our Kenyan research colleague Maina Mumbi and the hospitality of his family, SERC Co-director Arne Jacobson, Research Engineer Peter Johnstone and myself, Graduate Student Research Assistant Jenny Tracy, had a successful trip that was never short of excitement–within 15 meters of two full-grown lions we got a flat tire!

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Efficient Off-Grid Lighting in Kenya

Kenyan street vendor "before"

“Before”: M.J., a vendor in the Kenyan town of Maai Mahiu, poses with his hurricane-type kerosene lamp inside his kiosk. (Photo credit SERC).

Kenyan street vendor "after"

“After”: M.J. with his LED lamp that he obtained through our research effort. (Photo credit SERC).

We continued our research on efficient lighting for sub-saharan Africa in winter 2009 as a continuing partner in the Lumina Project, a collaboration between SERC Co-director Arne Jacobson and Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Over a month-long trip in summer 2008, Dr. Jacobson, Kristen Radecsky, and I traveled in the Rift Valley region of Kenya doing market field testing of small, rechargeable LED lighting products. In January 2009, I returned to the field for two weeks to follow up with the study participants and wrap up the year’s data collection effort. The January tasks included a follow-up survey for night market vendors who participated in the study, surveying the demand threshold for illumination for the vendors, and gathering samples of
LED products that are available in the Kenyan marketplace.

Between July 2008 and January 2009 our research participants had 6 months to work with the LED lamps they purchased through our project, and their response to the technology has been very positive. M.J., a research participant in the town of Maai Mahiu says, “I stay open longer now than before. I’ve noticed more customers are attracted to my business in the evening compared to before, and they can see my goods more clearly. Continue reading