Humboldt State University

Schatz Energy Research Center


PV array at the Blue Lake Rancheria Microgrid

The Schatz Energy Research Center designs and deploys clean energy technologies, and works in research, planning and policy to improve energy access around the globe. Our focus areas include:

Smart Grids

Schatz engineers and research associates are involved in cutting edge microgrid and demand response technologies.

In July 2017, we formally connected the Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR) microgrid to the Pacific Gas & Electric grid. The BLR microgrid demonstrates stable islanded operation with a high percentage of renewable energy, and creates seamless transitions between grid-parallel and islanded states. This project features the first deployment of the Siemens Spectrum 7 based microgrid management system (MGMS) and the first multi-inverter Tesla battery energy storage system (BESS) utilized in a microgrid application. The MGMS and the BESS were integrated using foundational relay control programming developed at the Schatz Center.

In September 2017, we began a three-year Solar+ project to design and install an integrated solar, battery storage, and demand response demonstration system at a rural California gas station & convenience store, run tests on the demo system which push the boundaries of coordination for distributed energy, and develop a toolkit for scaling the ensuing technology across the state.

Our newest microgrid project is a renewable energy system for the Humboldt County regional airport. Development of this four-year project will begin in summer 2018, and is supported by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) and a grant from the California Energy Commission. During power outages, this microgrid will provide resilience for eighteen customers including the airport and U.S. Coast Guard Air Station. During normal operations, the microgrid will generate renewable energy for RCEA customers. The microgrid will include a 2.3 megawatt photovoltaic array and an 8 megawatt-hour battery storage system.

Energy Access: International Work

The Schatz Center collaborates with international partners to improve access to energy across the globe. The scale of our projects ranges from village-level research and projects to international programs that span multiple countries and continents. We work closely with the World Bank Group and CLASP to manage the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program for off-grid solar products and systems. We also provide onsite training for off-grid solar product test labs in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, conduct field research in energy poor rural communities, and maintain an off-grid solar products testing laboratory at our center in Northern California.


Converting biomass residuals into energy can play an important role in forest management and reducing wildfire. However, careful attention must be paid to the specifics of biomass supply chains and conversion processes to ensure that these systems provide a net climate mitigation benefit and do not contribute to deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, or diminished air quality.

Our current research and development includes (a) analysis of bioenergy pathways to determine their net climate impact, (b) measurement and verification of biomass conversion technology (BCT) performance characteristics, product quality, and emission profiles, (c) engineering and system integration support for deploying BCTs as a part of forest improvement or restoration activities, and (d) support for those community-scale biomass utilization systems which provide both environmental benefits and economic development in rural communities.

In summer 2017, we began work on a three-year California Biopower Impact (CBI) Project, which will investigate the impacts associated with utilization of forest-derived woody biomass and agricultural residues for electricity generation. The project's central effort will be the creation of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) greenhouse gas emissions accounting tool.

Transportation, Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

The Schatz Center was founded in 1989 to demonstrate the use of hydrogen to store renewable energy - which led to our work on photovoltaic systems, fuel cells, and electric vehicles. We continue to provide fuel cell testing tools for universities and research centers, and offer hydrogen energy curriculum. Our photovoltaic array at the Humboldt State Telonicher Marine Lab, decommissioned in 2016, has been one of the nation's most carefully studied arrays over its 26 years of service. This array provided energy to aerate the laboratory's aquaria either directly or indirectly through an electrolyzer that produced hydrogen fuel for a proton exchange membrane fuel cell.

Our current work in the transportation sector includes infrastructure planning for hydrogen and electric vehicle fueling stations, feasibility studies for green transportation, and modeling the intersection of demand response and clean transportation technologies.

Planning and Policy Analysis

Our team at the Schatz Energy Research Center participates extensively in planning and policy analysis. Our projects include electric vehicle infrastructure planning for counties and cities in Northern California, energy strategy development for Native American tribes, and quality standards implementation for solar technologies in African and Asian countries. In the context of our work we frequently collect and analyze energy data, using this information to help policymakers understand and meet community energy needs. We also engage with government agencies and other relevant stakeholders as we work to help design and deploy effective policies and programs. In addition, we conduct detailed feasibility studies for clients on their renewable energy and energy efficiency options.

Project Archive

Learn more about SERC’s capabilities and experience by visiting our project archive.