As I write this, we have 15 students studying and working at the Center, our largest number ever. They range from graduate students serving as research assistants on various projects, to three undergraduate UNPEPPers working as summer interns on our 6th University-National Park Energy Partnership Program, to a local high school student helping with our HyTEC hydrogen education project. It’s wonderful having all that student enthusiasm and energy at the lab.
Meanwhile, other Schatzers are out in the world. Co-director Arne Jacobson and grad students Peter Johnstone and Kristen Radecsky are in Kenya doing research comparing traditional kerosene lighting with modern LED lighting products. Grad student Ranjit Deshmukh just returned from Brazil where he investigated efforts there to utilize gasification and other technologies to utilize bagasse, the waste in sugar cane processing, to produce energy. Ranjit reports on his trip in this issue. Soon Ranjit and Arne will be joining UC Berkeley colleagues in Indonesia to report to the Indonesian Sugar Group on progress with our gasification project.
This is an exciting time for our new SERC facility. The Request for Proposals for a new SERC building was sent out seven weeks ago and design packages from design/build teams are due this week. Once they arrive, we will choose a winner and be on our way to a permanent home for SERC on the HSU campus.
And if opening design/build packages is not enough excitement, we received our first hydrogen vehicle this week. A hydrogen powered Prius, retrofit by Quantum Technologies, was delivered moments before this newsletter went to press. Meanwhile, project manager Greg Chapman and other Schatzers are busy bringing our newly completed fueling station on-line. In a short time, we’ll have Humboldt County’s first hydrogen vehicle on the road.
It seems that every time I write one of these quarterly columns, the price of oil has risen by a huge amount. In my last column, it had just cracked $100/bbl; now it’s near $140. The heartening news is that Americans are finally taking action to reduce their energy use. That’s a big step in the direction we have to go and good news for our planet.