Analyzing Opportunities for PV Systems on the North Coast

Last spring, the North Coast Resource Partnership (NCRP) issued a call for applications from small water and wastewater service providers in disadvantaged communities to host demonstration projects. The goal was to identify projects that would serve to “beta-test” a small community resources toolkit, provide real engineering support to providers, and develop case studies to serve as examples for the North Coast region as a whole.

Technical assistance for the projects selected by the NCRP was led by GHD Inc. in Eureka, CA. SERC was subcontracted by GHD to complete a photovoltaic (PV) analysis for the Smith River Community Services District’s (SRCSD) water pumping facilities using methods that could be replicated as part of the small community resources toolkit.

The System Advisor Model (SAM), developed by the National Renewable Energy Research Laboratory, was selected because SAM is a free, robust, and well-supported analysis platform. Also, data collected with a Solar PathfinderTM during the site visits was easily imported into the SAM model to account for shading at the proposed array locations.

Internal view of one of the seven water pumping facilities owned and operated by the SRCSD that were analyzed for opportunities to install photovoltaic systems.

Internal view of one of the seven water pumping facilities owned and operated by the SRCSD that were analyzed for opportunities to install photovoltaic systems.

SERC engineers analyzed seven of the SRCSD facilities and found that if PV systems were implemented on an individual basis, the simple payback periods ranged from 8 to 12 years, given the current incentive and pricing landscape. If the systems were aggregated together, the simple payback period would be about nine years to install 64 kW DC of PV generating capacity that could meet approximately 70% of projected SRCSD electrical loads. As a result of this work, SERC recommended that the SAM model and the Solar PathfinderTM be incorporated into the NCRP Small Community Resource Toolkit.

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.

Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Adam Browning

Unfortunately, inclement weather precluded Adam from making it to campus in time to deliver his talk. We hope to reschedule; stay tuned.

HSU’s Sustainable Futures Speakers Series spring lineup kicks off on February 6 with Adam Browning of Vote Solar. Adam will present a free, public lecture from 5:30pm-7:00pm in Science B 135 on the HSU Campus. The title of his talk is “Solar Market Development in the US: Theory, Practice, and Prognostications.”

Adam is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Vote Solar Initiative, a non- profit organization with the mission of bringing solar energy into the mainstream. Vote Solar got its start with a successful ballot initiative for a $100 million solar revenue bond in San Francisco in 2001, and since then has been working with state and municipal governments on pro-solar policies, with the goal of jumpstarting the national transition to renewable energy. Vote Solar has 10 advocates spread across the country, working full-time to advance solar markets.

Prior to Vote Solar, Adam spent eight years with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s San Francisco office, where he won the Agency’s top pollution prevention award for developing a program that reduced air emissions of mercury. Adam received a BA with Distinction from Swarthmore College in 1992, and served with the Peace Corps in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.

California is a leader in solar technology adoption, and Vote Solar deserves considerable credit for its advocacy work over the past decade. If you are interested in the politics of solar power adoption, you should not miss this talk.

Yurok Energy Upgrade Complete

Yurok PV Array

Project Manager Jim Zoellick checks the shading profile for the Weitchpec solar electric array. (Photo credit SERC.)

The Yurok Tribe recently completed energy upgrades at their Klamath and Weitchpec Tribal offices. This included the installation of a 15.7 kW AC solar electric array in Weitchpec and energy efficiency upgrades at both locations. As reported in our Fall 2011 newsletter, SERC provided the Tribe with technical support for the project. This included services from start to finish.

Initially, SERC helped the Tribe secure American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for the project and worked with the Tribe to define the scope of project activities. In addition to ARRA funding, SERC helped the Tribe secure a rebate from the California Solar Initiative program. This offset part of the cost of the solar electric system.

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Energy Upgrades for Yurok Buildings

Evaluating Yurok PV Installation

Jim Zoellick uses a solar pathfinder to measure the shading on a PV array on a Yurok Tribal office building. (Photo credit SERC).

SERC is playing a key role in helping the Yurok Tribe of northern California add renewable energy generation and energy efficiency improvements to their Tribal office buildings. As we reported in our fall 2010 newsletter, the Tribe is installing a solar electric system on their Weitchpec office and implementing energy efficiency upgrades in the Weitchpec building as well as their Klamath office. Measures include air sealing and improved lighting and HVAC controls.

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A Message from the Director

Peter Lehman

Peter Lehman, SERC Director

I just returned from the Photovoltaic Specialists’ Conference in Seattle; it was the 50th year anniversary of the conference. The first PVSC that I attended was in 1987 when Charles Chamberlin and I reported on PV module tests in Humboldt County.

What a difference! The conference is now huge, with thousands of attendees, and the PV industry is mature and sophisticated. Total worldwide installations of PVs have now reached 40 GW and as one speaker reported, if PV growth stays on the historical path that it has maintained for the last 30 years, total installed PVs will reach 1000 GW by 2020. At that level, PVs will contribute about 10-15% of the world’s total electricity generation. That’s amazing and heartening progress.

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The Schatz PV Array – Twenty Years and Counting

Trinidad Solar Hydrogen Project

The Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project was installed in 1991 to demonstrate a combined solar PV and hydorgen fuel cell system. hydrogen for

Twenty years ago Jim Zoellick measured the performance of every one of the 192 photovoltaic modules just before they were installed in the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project array. Nine years ago Antonio Reis and Nate Coleman retested every module after it had been in service for eleven years. This year Mark Rocheleau, Marc Marshall, and Scott Rommel tested every module for the third time after twenty years of service.

These painstaking measurements provide a unique opportunity to track the degradation of the performance of individual modules over twenty years of service in the cool, coastal, marine environment 150 meters from the Pacific Ocean at HSU’s Telonicher Marine Laboratory in Trinidad, CA.

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Humboldt County Clean Energy Futures

Humboldt Bay Power Plant

RESCO Project Manager Jim Zoellick stands next to a 10 MW Natural Gas generator, one of sixteen that were recently installed by PG&E to replace the aging power plant at King Salmon south of Eureka. The generators will be a good match to intermittent renewable energy like wind and wave power. (Photo credit Jim Zoellick)

The Humboldt County Renewable Energy Secure Community (RESCO) project gives all of us at SERC a welcome opportunity to focus our effort on the community where we live, work, and play. The goal of the RESCO project is to forge a strategic plan for Humboldt County to develop clean and renewable energy resources that meet at least 75% of our electricity needs and a significant fraction of our heating and transportation needs. Our main project partner is the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA). RCEA is focused on political and strategic issues; SERC is doing the technical and economic work.

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Working with the Yurok Tribe on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Evaluating Yurok PV Installation

Jim Zoellick takes measures the shading (using a solar pathfinder) on a PV array on a Yurok Tribal office building. (Photo credit SERC).

The Schatz Lab has a long-standing relationship working with the Yurok Tribe on energy projects. Starting in 1999, we installed a fuel cell power system at School House Peak that powered their cell phone repeater station. Since then we have installed a residential off-grid solar electric system and conducted energy planning and needs assessment work.

Currently we are conducting a feasibility study to examine the potential for wind- and hydro-electric energy generation on the Reservation. We have been collecting stream flow data on Pecwan and Ke’Pel Creeks for about two years, as well as wind speed data on McKinnon Hill for the past year. We are now analyzing the data, determining the energy generation potential, estimating project costs and potential revenues, and conducting life-cycle economic assessments. The final results of this study are due early next year.

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Solarizing the BLM Kaluna Cabin

BLM Kaluna Cabin PV Array

UNPEPP interns Matt Bray and Garren Sparks help install a PV for the BLM (Photo credit SERC).

This article was written by Matt Bray and Garren Sparks.

Recently the Bureau of Land Management contracted with SERC to design and install a photovoltaic (PV) system for the Kaluna Cabin. Located in California’s rugged King Range National Conservation Area in southwestern Humboldt County, the Kaluna Cabin overlooks the Kaluna cliffs and the mighty Pacific Ocean. Acquired by BLM in the 1990’s, the cabin is used to showcase the natural beauty and ecological importance of the area to visiting government officials, dignitaries, and non-profit groups. The cabin has no electricity, and propane is used for lighting, refrigeration, hot water, and cooking. BLM staff decided that an off-grid PV system to provide electricity for lighting and small electronics could improve the usability of the cabin as well as decrease fire hazards associated with using propane for lighting.

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