Sustainable Futures Speaker Series: Sharon Kramer of H.T. Harvey to Speak on Wave Energy and the Environment

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Sharon Kramer of H.T. Harvey & Associates to campus as the first speaker in the Fall 2016 Sustainable Futures Speaker Series. Sharon will speak on Thursday, September 15 from 5:30 to 7:00 PM in the Art B building, room 102 on the HSU campus. The Art B building is located just to the east of the Van Duzer Theater. The title of her talk is “State of the Science on Environmental Issues and Marine Renewable Energy.”

Dr. Sharon Kramer is a principal at H. T. Harvey & Associates, and she heads its North Coast office and the Fish and Aquatic Ecology team. She has more than 25 years of experience in aquatic ecology and fisheries biology in the Pacific Northwest, California, Australia, and Hawai‘i. Sharon is well-versed in fish and aquatic habitat restoration and monitoring and project permitting, with extensive federal Endangered Species Act work. Her most recent focus has involved assessing and mitigating the environmental effects associated with marine renewable energy projects. Sharon has a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an M.S. in Zoology from the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, and a B.A. in Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Marine renewable energy, including wave energy and off-shore wind power, has great potential to contribute to the production of clean energy over the coming decades. Our region, including sites offshore along the California Coast north of Cape Mendocino and the Oregon Coast, has perhaps the best wave and off-shore wind resource potential in the continental United States. While the resource is excellent, challenges must be overcome to create reliable, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable marine renewable energy systems. Sharon has been a central player in efforts to address these challenges, with a focus on monitoring and addressing environmental issues associated with off-shore renewable energy systems. Her talk should be a very interesting and engaging one, and we encourage you to attend.

 

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3We were pleased to welcome HSU’s new president, Lisa Rossbacher, to SERC last week for a tour and meetings with some of our staff. We look forward to working under her leadership in the years to come.

During President Rossbacher’s visit, SERC Founding Director Peter Lehman and I provided a brief account of SERC’s 25-year history and a summary of our current portfolio of projects. She then met with faculty and staff associated with SERC during her tour. My thanks go to everyone from our team who participated in the session for their professional and engaging presentations.

While preparing remarks for the meetings with the President, I was – once again – struck by the scope and diversity of SERC’s clean energy project work. That same diversity is represented in this newsletter, which includes coverage of wave energy on the North Coast, electric vehicle infrastructure planning for the city of Delhi in India, field research about off-grid solar lighting and energy systems in Kenya, and alternative fuels for transportation in Northern California.

As we expand our work, we also need to bring in new team members. I am happy to welcome Kyle Palmer, Malini Kannan, and Asif Hassan to SERC. Kyle and Malini were both hired to work on the lighting lab team, where they will engage in testing off-grid lighting and energy products in the context of SERC’s role as technical lead for the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program. Kyle, an alumnus of the Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE) program at HSU, is re-joining SERC after several years of independent work. Malini came to us from UC San Diego, where she earned a BS in environmental engineering. Asif, who came to HSU this fall as a master’s student in the Energy Technology and Policy (ETaP) program, is the Schatz Energy Fellowship recipient for 2014. He has a BS in electrical and electronic engineering from Islamic University of Technology in Bangladesh. It is great to have all three of them on our team.

I will close with a reminder that SERC and the ERE department at HSU are jointly conducting a search for a new tenure track faculty position. The selected candidate will divide time between teaching in the ERE department and conducting research at SERC. Applications are due on October 31, 2014. The expected start date is August 2015. Additional details are available here. Please pass this announcement on to anyone who might be interested to apply.

Goodbye to you all until next time.

SERC Studies Potential Wave Energy Test Center Off California Coast

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The wave power resource off the coast of California and southern Oregon is substantial. Source: NREL’s MHK Atlas http://maps.nrel.gov/mhk_atlas.

Ocean waves represent a vast untapped energy resource that could someday become an important component of a diversified renewable energy portfolio. Each year, the equivalent of California’s total demand for electricity passes through our coastal waters as wave energy. Because of this enormous potential, there is a budding wave power industry looking to harness this power by installing wave energy conversion devices in the open ocean.

The wave energy industry is still relatively young. No one is certain what particular type of mechanism will extract energy from the waves at the least cost. There are dozens of manufacturers with a variety of device designs in various stages of development and, while wave tanks can be used to test scale models, open-ocean testing is critical to proving these devices under real-world conditions. Since the infrastructure and permitting requirements to install devices in the ocean are expensive, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking to fund a wave energy test facility on the West Coast in order to reduce these barriers and jump start the technology.

Right now, three sites are under consideration: Humboldt Bay, Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California, and Newport, Oregon. The DOE has funded two feasibility studies to explore the potential of each site. The California sites are under study by a partnership between Humboldt State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a variety of industry experts and stakeholders at the local, state, and national levels. SERC is leading the HSU team, which includes HSU faculty, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, and HT Harvey, a local consulting firm. The Oregon site is under study by researchers from Oregon State University. By this time next year, one of the three sites will be selected by DOE to receive implementation funding.

Humboldt Bay has a number of compelling advantages when it comes to offshore renewable development. It has the only deep-water port in California north of San Francisco Bay, the wave energy resource here is among the highest in the nation, and critical grid infrastructure already exists on our coast. Indeed, Pacific Gas & Electric studied our waters carefully during their WaveConnect project, which similarly sought to create a wave power test facility. Unfortunately, that project was abandoned for various reasons in 2011. In addition, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District has recently taken title to the former Freshwater Tissue Pulp Mill and is actively developing the site as a marine research and innovation park. The site could potentially be used as a base of operations for wave energy device manufacturing, deployment, and maintenance.

It’s important to note that a test center will not move forward in Humboldt or elsewhere without a thorough community engagement process that carefully examines the potential social and environmental impacts of development. In addition, both the Vandenberg and Newport sites, which are competing with Humboldt for the test center, have their own considerable advantages.

Wherever the national wave energy test center is sited, all of the western coastal states will eventually play a role in the development of commercial-scale wave energy. This project is an excellent opportunity to put some thought into our strengths and gaps as a host site. And adding to the possibilities for offshore development, the wind energy resource off our coast is also phenomenal and offshore windpower shares most of the same requirements in terms of infrastructure and permitting. No matter how this unfolds, the work happening now is an important stepping-stone toward the greater goal of a sustainable energy future.

SERC Speaks Up on State Energy RD&D Funding

California is just now launching the first round of funding opportunities under its new Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, which will support research, development and demonstration (RD&D) for promising new energy technologies. Meanwhile, the State has already begun planning for the next round of EPIC funding, to become available starting in 2015. The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently released a draft 2015-17 Triennial Investment Plan and solicited public comments on funding priorities for this second round. SERC provided input on two important fields, forest biomass energy and offshore power, including wind and wave technologies.

Our letter on offshore energy points out how these untapped resources offer great potential for California’s renewable energy portfolio. However, we note that California is at risk of falling behind on developing offshore wind and wave technologies. We also make the case that California’s north coast is especially ripe for RD&D and eventual commercial development of coastal energy.

Many rural northern California communities generate substantial volumes of biomass residue in their forestry sectors, and these resources offer significant biomass energy development opportunities. The EPIC program has a substantial focus on biomass energy funding initiatives. SERC voiced general support for these initiatives, with an emphasis on field deployable densification technologies, such as torrefaction, and efficient energy conversion technologies, such as gasification. These technologies are critical to the economic viability of biomass energy development.

Visit the CEC’s EPIC page to view comments from SERC on biomass and offshore energy.

A Message from the Director

AJ headshot 3Happy New Year! I hope that 2014 is off to a good start for you all. The year promises to be a busy and productive one for the team at SERC. We have an exciting lineup of clean energy projects and activities across a number of subject areas.

In the energy access arena, we are in the final stage of negotiating a three-year, $1.6 million contract with the International Finance Corporation to continue our work as the technical lead for quality assurance for the Lighting Global initiative. Lighting Global is associated with the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs, which support the development of markets for modern off-grid lighting and energy products. Under our contract, we will continue to manage the program’s quality assurance testing and verification program for off-grid lighting products. We will also lead a strategic effort to update and expand the program, conduct laboratory and field research related to the effort, and engage with key industry stakeholders. Our work to date for IFC has helped support rapid expansion of the use of solar charged off-grid lighting and energy systems. For example, over 2.7 million off-grid LED lights that were quality assured through the program have been sold in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2009, and sales have been doubling annually. Sales in South Asian countries such as India are also high. We look forward to our continued participation in the effort to expand access to clean and affordable energy for people without access to grid power in the years to come.

We will be similarly busy in the biomass energy arena. First, we are working closely with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) and the Blue Lake Rancheria on a project involving the development of a cutting edge biomass-fueled power system to be installed at the Rancheria. The system involves a gasifier that converts woody biomass fuel into a hydrogen-rich syngas, which is, in turn, processed for use in a proton exchange membrane fuel cell. This year is a pivotal one for the effort, as we aim to make considerable progress toward the goal of having an operational system in 2015. We will also continue work on the conversion of biomass into useful fuels and other valuable products using technologies such as gasification, torrefaction and densification. We are currently finishing up one project in this area, and anticipate starting a significant new project in the coming months (details forthcoming).

We also have several projects in hand on the clean transportation front, including analyses related to electric vehicle infrastructure planning for Humboldt County, several other counties in the northern Central Valley of California, and the city of New Delhi. We learned in December that a $300K alternative transportation planning project (including electric vehicles and other alternative fuels) that we are conducting in partnership with RCEA and other regional partners was funded by the California Energy Commission. Special thanks go to Jim Zoellick, Colin Sheppard and Kevin Fingerman of SERC and Matthew Marshall, Dana Boudreau, and Jerome Carman of RCEA for leading that proposal development effort. We may have even more work in this area soon, as we learn the outcome of additional submitted proposals.

Last, but certainly not least, we will participate in a feasibility analysis for the development of a wave energy technology test site in California in collaboration with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a number of additional partners, including local partners RCEA, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, and HT Harvey and Associates. The analysis, which is a $750K effort funded by U.S. Department of Energy, involves consideration of sites near Humboldt Bay and San Luis Obispo.

I can say with confidence that 2014 will not be a dull one here at SERC. We are holding on to our hats. Goodbye until next time.

Moving Forward with the RePower Humboldt Plan

Last spring, SERC worked with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) to release the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan. The plan lays out long-term strategies and near-term implementation measures that can lead Humboldt toward a more sustainable energy future. Less than a year from the completion of that planning effort, we’re pleased to report that a substantial number of the implementation measures are already under way, and SERC is actively involved in several of them.

  • There are multiple efforts to utilize forest-based biomass resources in an ecologically sensitive and cost-effective manner.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy is funding a study to revisit the idea of a pilot-scale wave energy facility offshore from Humboldt Bay.
  • Locals and developers are still interested in harnessing wind and run-of-the-river hydro resources throughout the region.
  • SERC is working with RCEA to complete a regional plan to support the adoption of electric vehicles.
  • On the energy demand side of the equation, the efficiency programs at RCEA continue to grow and reach more local residents, businesses and schools.
  • RCEA will soon implement a heat pump pilot study in the City of Blue Lake.

While not exhaustive, this list makes it clear that our local community is serious about pursuing the vision articulated in the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan, and that we already have the momentum to make substantial progress over the coming years!