Top Officials Preside Sept. 2 at HSU Schatz Center Dedication
By Paul Mann
Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond, Representative Mike Thompson, and Schatz Director Peter Lehman will preside at the building dedication and open house of Humboldt State University’s new Schatz Energy Research Center on Friday, Sept. 2 at 11 a.m. The new structure sits just west of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Building and the dedication is open to the general public as well as the campus community.
The state-of-the-art 6,000 square foot-plus center houses an exterior laboratory, two indoor labs, a machine shop, a conference and library room, and offices for staff and graduate students.
Adhering to the sustainability principles of both Schatz and Humboldt State, the new building meets LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold equivalent standards.
“This is a watershed event for the lab,” Lehman said. “Our new facility gives us the wherewithal to develop the clean energy technology our world so desperately needs, and now we’ll be able to get even more students involved in the work.”
Funding for the $3.2 million project came from the estate of the late Dr. Louis W. Schatz, long-time benefactor of the Center, founded in 1989 when he was president of General Plastics Manufacturing Company in Tacoma, Washington.
At the founding, Schatz wrote, “I look forward to a successful research effort and hope that eventually it will solve many of the world’s energy and pollution problems.”
The Center’s mission is to promote the use of clean and renewable energy, geared to energy efficiency and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The Center’s work spans research and development, technology demonstration, project development, energy systems analysis, and education and training.
Notable Schatz Center successes during its 22-year history include the first fuel cell car licensed to drive in the U.S. and the nation’s first solar-powered hydrogen fueling station. Its fuel cell patents have been licensed to four U.S. corporations seeking to commercialize the technology. Recently, the Center designed and built a modern hydrogen fueling station on the HSU campus and it is testing a state-of-the-art Toyota fuel cell vehicle.
Most recently an HSU/Schatz team travelled to Bhutan in south Asia and wrapped up the first installation of Smart Grid devices named GridShares, with the specific purpose of enabling rural customers of hydroelectric power to manage their individual power use and curb brownouts.
Humboldt State students and faculty advisors installed 90 low-cost GridShare systems of their own design in the village of Rukubji. They collaborated with local residents on-site, teamed with the Bhutan Power Corporation, Bhutan’s Department of Energy, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Long-established internationally with links to Asia, Africa, Central America, Europe, Canada and Mexico, the Schatz Center also recently made its first technology transfer to the Middle East, completing an agreement to provide a test station and accompanying fuel cell to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The initiative is aimed at jump-starting Masdar’s fuel cell research. It is a key part of Masdar’s charter as an international graduate-level research and education institution in the Persian Gulf, directed at spurring renewable energy knowledge, development, and practical applications.
As Schatz staff and students settle into their new building, researchers have a new piece of equipment as well. A torrefier is on loan from Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT), a San Mateo start-up business. Through torrefaction, biomass, such as logging slash, is heated without oxygen to temperatures of 250-300 degrees Celsius. The result is a cleaner-burning, energy-dense renewable energy source that RFT calls “BioCoal.” The Schatz Center is performing research to assist RFT in designing a commercially-viable torrefier that is self-sustaining.
Schatz is affiliated with Humboldt State’s Environmental Resources Engineering program, enabling both undergraduate and graduate students to acquire rare hands-on experience with cutting-edge, 21st century energy technologies.