Schatz Energy Research Center

Our capabilities

The Schatz Center has an interdisciplinary team including faculty, research, and professional staff, and student employees. Our research and project expertise includes: solar power, microgrids, and demand response; clean transportation, electric vehicle deployment, hydrogen, and fuel cells; biomass technology assessment; off-grid energy access, planning and policy, energy efficiency, and environmental and human health impacts of energy use; and training, education, and outreach.

Our team includes researchers with degrees ranging from civil, environmental, and mechanical engineering to energy resources, chemistry, and environmental health. We also have four professional engineers on staff, covering civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering.

Team skills

  • Technical design and system integration
  • Quantitative analysis (statistics, computational modeling, life cycle assessment, etc.)
  • Measurement and assessment of energy technologies and products
  • Interdisciplinary field research including technical and social science methodologies
  • Energy policy analysis and implementation
  • Education, outreach, mentorship, and training

Project highlights

The projects below are examples of our team’s capabilities. Read more about our current projects…

Three women stand at the foot of the Blue Lake Rancheria solar array.

Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR) microgrid

As project lead for the BLR microgrid, the Schatz Center provided system design, system integration, construction management, monitoring, and statistical analysis. The Center led a high profile partner team, including Siemens, Pacific Gas and Electric, Tesla, Idaho National Laboratory, REC Solar, and the Blue Lake Rancheria.

Fully operational as of July 2017, the BLR microgrid features a 0.5 MW solar array, a 1 MWh storage battery, and a custom microgrid controller, and it performs seamless transitions between grid interconnected and islanded modes. This CEC-funded project won DistribuTECH’s 2018 Project of the Year Award for Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Grid Integration.

A man conducts field surveys for off-grid energy access

Technical lead for the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program

The Schatz Center serves as technical lead for the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global Quality Assurance program. Launched in 2009, this program maintains the foremost international framework for off-grid solar product quality assurance and customer protection. Over 30 million quality assured solar products have been sold commercially to date—providing energy services in East and West Africa, South Asia, and other regions with significant off-grid populations.

Our team’s role includes the development of test methods and quality standards, product testing in our onsite lab, technical training for partner laboratories, participation in International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) technical committees, and consumer-oriented field research. Our work involves close collaboration with partners from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank, and CLASP, as well as engagement with government standards bureaus and energy ministries, and with industry and development agency stakeholders.

Two engineers use a solar simulator to test a solar module

Off-grid solar product testing laboratory

The Schatz Center operates an ISO 17025 accredited test laboratory that focuses on testing off-grid solar products to the protocols specified in IEC Technical Specification 62257-9-5 for the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program. Our laboratory has specialized instruments for testing solar products including a solar simulator, an outdoor IV curve tracer, an environmental chamber, battery analyzers, an integrating sphere, multiple programmable power supplies, and electronic loads that allow us to test solar lanterns and solar home system kits with solar PV modules up to 100 watts and batteries up to 50 Ah.

In addition to the work with the Lighting Global Quality Assurance program, our team carries out custom tests and research related to off-grid solar products and associated appliances, such as radios, fans, televisions, and water pumps.

Village nestled between hills

GridShare project in Bhutan

The Schatz Center has conducted multidisciplinary field research related to off-grid energy access in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Nigeria and Niger, and India and Bhutan. We use mixed-method approaches that combine social science with technical data collection.

For the Bhutan GridShare project, we partnered with Cal Poly Humboldt’s Renewable Energy Student Union (RESU) to conduct field research over three years. This project successfully designed and deployed a smart electric load limiter to resolve brownouts at a village-scale hydroelectric mini-grid in the rural town of Rukubji, Bhutan. We engaged in field data collection involving technical measurements related to mini-grid performance and power quality in order to assess the effectiveness of GridShare devices. We also held interviews and stakeholder meetings with villagers and engaged closely with the Bhutan Power Corporation, which owns the mini-grid. Our analysis from the project confirmed that the GridShare system reduced severe brownouts by over 90%.

Biochar system in field.

Waste to Wisdom biomass energy project

The Schatz Center served as lead for the biomass conversion task area in the multidisciplinary Waste to Wisdom research project. Our work involved close collaboration with industry partners to evaluate four mobile biomass conversion technology processes: biochar production, torrefaction, briquette production, and gasifier-based power generation. We were engaged in system design and integration, custom instrumentation of biomass conversion systems (machines) for data collection, experimental design, operation of the machines at forest-sector operations sites, laboratory measurements of biomass feedstocks and end products, and analysis of the collected data.

A biomass slash pile.

California Biopower Impacts project

Our California Biopower Impacts (CBI) project is investigating the effects of using forest-derived woody biomass and agricultural residues for electricity generation. The primary project goal is to develop a Life Cycle Assessment greenhouse gas emissions accounting tool for the California bioregion. The project team is also examining critical environmental impacts that can be associated with bioenergy—including altered risk or severity of wildfire, soil fertility and carbon stock reduction, and changes to air quality. Collaborators on this effort include researchers and practitioners from the University of Washington, the Consortium for Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM), CSU Chico, the Watershed Research and Training Center, and the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment. The CBI project aims to give policymakers the tools and insights to better understand, and to shape, the environmental performance of biomass energy systems.

A red Tesla charges at the Schatz station.

Northern California electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure planning

The Schatz Center provides electric vehicle infrastructure analysis and planning support for the public light duty sector in the Northern California region. Over the past six years our projects have engaged multiple stakeholders—including infrastructure site hosts, city governments, economic development agencies, air quality and transportation boards, and utilities. Our technical work to date has included siting of charging stations based on quantitative modeling, and civil and electrical installation designs that integrated early market lessons learned. We have also provided training for planning and permitting officials on EV code requirements and design pitfalls, conducted fleet evaluations, developed a charging station selection guide to inform stakeholder purchasing and local permitting requirements, and provided public outreach and education.

Cutting the ribbon on the HSU SORMS project

Education, outreach and student mentoring

Our education program is multifaceted, and includes student mentorship and employment, community, collegiate, and K12 education, and technical training programs. We are affiliated with the Environmental Resources Engineering department at Cal Poly Humboldt, and work closely with faculty in Environmental Science and Management, Environmental Systems, Economics, and Forestry. We offer seasonal research employment for undergraduate and graduate students at Humboldt, and three graduate fellowships. Through the Sustainable Futures Speaker Series, we bring clean energy innovators to campus to share their expertise and encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations. We have developed specialized training programs and built hydrogen fuel cell testing equipment for high schools across the United States and university research programs worldwide. We have provided hydrogen and fuel cell safety and awareness training to transit agencies, first responders, and citizen groups nationwide. And, in cooperation with Lighting Global and CLASP, we provide training for solar product test labs around the globe.

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