Old Projects

Agricultural Innovation in Africa

Project Background and Rationale

African agriculture is at the crossroads. Persistent food shortages are now being compounded by new threats arising from climate change. But Africa faces two major opportunities that can help transform its agriculture and use it as a force for economic growth. First, advances in science and technology worldwide offer African countries new tools needed to promote sustainable agriculture. Second, efforts to create regional markets will provide new incentives for agricultural production and trade. This is the focus of the "Agricultural Innovation in Africa" (AIA) project. The project seeks to disseminate policy-relevant information on how to align science and technology missions with regional agricultural development goals. It does so in the context of the larger agenda to promote regional economic integration and development.

Amorphous Silicon Photovoltaic Systems in Kenya

In this project we evaluated the performance and condition of single junction amorphous silicon (a-Si) modules used in PV systems installed in Kenya, and used this opportunity to provide additional training and market analysis opportunities for local East African renewable energy entrepreneurs. We carefully surveyed a-Si PV systems and measured PV module performance in each site. We analyzed the data in order to establish the survival rate and performance of a-Si modules in field operating conditions and to identify equipment and institutional options that could benefit the private PV industry and the end-user community in East Africa. We are sharing the results with solar rural electrification projects, manufacturers, dealers and end-users as well as the international development community through publications, correspondence, and regional workshops.

Image: Rural Kenyan woman holding her amorphous silicon photovoltaic panel

More information

Replacing coal with renewables in Malaysia

Read Kammen's report

Malaysian locals, environmentalists, and RAEL Director Dan Kammen have won the battle against a controversial coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo. The Malaysian State and Federal government finally announced after a long struggle that they would "pursue other alternative sources of energy, namely gas, to meet Sabah's power supply needs." Proposed for an undeveloped beach on the north-eastern coast of Borneo, the coal plant, according to critics, would have threatened the Coral Triangle, one of the world's most biodiverse marine ecosystems, and Tabin Wildlife Reserve, home to Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos and Bornean orangutans. Local fishermen feared that discharges from the plant would have imperiled their livelihood.

Green Jobs

How many jobs can renewable energy sources and energy efficiency generate as a function of RPS and demand scenarios to 2030? In this project, we synthesize data from 15 jobs studies to build an analytical job calculator for the U.S. power sector. We also include low carbon sources such as nuclear power and carbon capture and storage.

NEW! The Green Jobs Report published in the Energy Policy is available for download below: "Putting Renewables and Energy Efficiency To Work: How Many Jobs Can The Clean Energy Industry Generate in the U.S.?"

Copenhagen Climate Council Report and Green Jobs Calculator also available for download below.

Max Wei (maxcjwei   @ gmail . com)
Prof. Dan Kammen (kammen  @  berkeley . edu)
Shana Patadia (shanapat10 @  gmail. com)

The Energy-Poverty-Climate Nexus

the village Orinoco in Nicaragua

Close to two-thirds of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas. Eradication of rural poverty depends on increased access to goods, services, and information, targets detailed in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. However, alleviating poverty is hindered by two interlinked phenomena: lack of access to improved energy services and worsening environmental shocks due to climate change

Mitigating climate change, increasing energy access, and alleviating rural poverty can all be complementary, their overlap defi ning an energy-poverty-climate nexus. We describe interventions in a rural Nicaraguan community to show that energy services can be provided in cost-effective manners, offering potential to address aspects of rural poverty while also transitioning away from fossil fuel dependence.

 A Marginal Abatement Cost Curve

 Recent Press Coverage: 

Revenue Investment of California’s GHG Emissions Trading Program

In anticipation of the California Air Resources Board (CARB)’s upcoming decision over a greenhouse gas emissions trading program, Next 10, a nonprofit nonpartisan research organization, commissioned five research papers from leading academic experts to address the multibillion dollar issue of how California should distribute greenhouse gas allowances and the resulting revenue.

RAEL Researcher Jamil Farbes and Lab Director Dan Kammen produced in this context a study entitled "Government Investment in a Clean Energy Future".

Key findings include:

Distributed Concentrating Solar Combined Heat and Power

In conjunction with Combustion Analysis Laboratory and the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability in Mechanical Engineering, our research aims to develop a Rankine cycle heat engine system which will convert sunlight to heat at 60-80% solar-thermal efficiency and electricity at 8-10% solar-electric efficiency using concentrating solar collectors. In contrast to photovoltaic systems which cost ~$7/Watt [Solarbuzz, 2007] of generator rated peak electrical output, in mass production the proposed collector and generator system sized at 1-10kW would cost ~$4/Watt electricity or $0.80/Watt heat, allowing adjustment of heat and electrical output on demand. Considering that 112 MW of grid-connected PV was installed in the U.S. in 2006, there is a large proven market for solar energy. With widespread market penetration, this system would reduce greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions from electricity generation and heating for a significant portion of the developed and developing world.

There are currently two prevalent technologies for solar-electric energy conversion: photovoltaics harness the photo-electric effect for direct conversion of light to electricity, and solar thermal collects light as heat, driving mechanical-electrical generators; typically using a Rankine Cycle. While photovoltaics exist in both centralized and distributed power applications, solar-thermal power is exclusively used in centralized plants. This is due to the fact that the expanders required in a Rankine cycle do not operate efficiently at low power levels (1 - 10 kW). If this technical barrier can be overcome, distributed solar-thermal could have several advantages over distributed photovoltaics: photovoltaic technologies cannot currently store excess energy economically; while energy in the form of heat can be cost effectively stored using available thermal storage technologies. Additionally, semiconductor processing requires large amounts of energy, water, and harmful chemicals; whereas solar-thermal technology uses more easily processed engineering materials, such as steel, glass, and rubber. Solar thermal may thereby provide cheaper, more reliable and environmentally benign distributed generation in a variety of economies worldwide. As outlined in the 2005 Dept. of Energy publication “Basic Research Needs for Solar Energy Utilization,” moderate temperature distributed solar thermal is an area where there is potential for significant breakthroughs to reduce the cost of solar energy.

Current research focuses on the following: (1) Determine likely candidates for the power generation device in moderate temperature heat engine applications. (2) Characterize the environmental impact (embodied energy, toxicity, and global warming pollution) of each potential design, and provide an example of how to consider these impacts during the design stage. (3) Optimize the system design using integrated multi-objective design-optimization over the following parameters: solar conversion efficiency, weight, cost, and environmental impacts. (4) Produce a moderate temperature expander design and prototype and a viable business model. 

Biomass Energy in Zimbabwe

The project's goal is to promote sustainable biomass energy management for positive economic development in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. Although its focus is on Eastern Zimbabwe, if successful it promises to be a model for the integration of large-scale and community/household-scale sustainable biomass energy and ecological management in a number of developing nations. The project will consist of testing, evaluating, and implementing methods for sustainable power generation using the wood waste produced by large, medium and small sawmills operating in the Manicaland region, near the border of Mozambique. Currently, over 70,000 tons of this biomass waste is produced annually. The project's principal objectives will be to examine the technical and economic feasibility of the available alternative biomass energy generation technologies, their effect on the forest-management practices, and the social implications for this region.

Island Microgrid Design

RAEL is designing and implementing low-carbon energy microgrids for Necker and Moskito Islands in the BVI. The natural resources available at Necker and Moskito present an excellent opportunity to move towards renewable electric power generation. In addition to the immediate local environmental benefits, powering these islands from renewable sources could meet many social goals. Most importantly, Necker and Moskito Island can serve as a case study to show the BVI government and local population that these technologies are reliable, cost effective and can be implemented thoughtfully to preserve the beautiful BVI landscape. The microgrid design on each island will involve a mix of wind and solar power, alternative energy storage and power factor correction devices. Look for more news on this high-profile project soon!
Contact: Dan Prull

Disseminating Efficient Cookstoves in Tanzania

The “KUUTE” stove, developed in Tanzania and made by local artisans, is twice as efficient as prevalent improved charcoal stoves. However, many well- engineered stoves have failed to impact livelihoods, as they are not adopted by households. The Blum Center is supporting research on cost-effective dissemination methods.

See project website

Wind Energy Blueprints

We offer our consulting services as a research lab by creating renewable energy resource maps. We are using ESRI’s GIS visualization software, ArcMap to create maps of the energy resources in a given location along with geographic and political land exclusions. Work is currently underway on creating a regional wind energy blueprint for Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands area. This blueprint consists of both a comprehensive assessment of the potential for wind power in the region and also a rigorous discussion of how to best promote this resource's utilization. The gross and technical potential as well as top wind farm sites are being quantified using a wind mapping tool developed in RAEL. Future plans to create a similar blueprint for Alameda and Marin Counties are being discussed.

Image: Clip of Wind Resource Map in Santa Barbara County, CA

Contact: Dan Prull

ERG Biofuels Analysis Meta-Model (EBAMM)

The ERG Biofuel Analysis Meta-Model (EBAMM) was developed by students and faculty of the Energy and Resources Group and Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley to review the current state of ethanol energy analyses. This project has resulted a publication and a freely-downloadable spreadsheet model that are available on the project's web page.

We are currently extending this work to model a variety of biofuel pathways, including Braziian sugarcane ethanol, "advanced" corn, and an array of biorefinery alternatives. We are also preparing a comparison of biodiesel life-cycle analyses.

See the project webpage

UV-Tube: Ultraviolet Water Disinfection

The project focuses on improving water quality for people in developing areas where other water treatment methods are not applied consistently because of their cost, inconvenience, complexity, or energy requirements. The goal of the UV-Tube Project is to design and promote the UV-Tube—an affordable, simple, and easy to use household water disinfection device that uses ultraviolet (UV-C) light to inactivate pathogens.

More Information about UV-Tube: Ultraviolet Water Disinfection

Small Wind Turbine Testing Lab

Small-scale wind turbines help address a global need for cheap, reliable distributed energy. The market for these small (0.1 -10 kW) turbines ranges from remote off-grid locations to residential systems and grid-tied commercial applications. In recent years, the wind market has seen a rapid increase with a 28% annual growth rate and over 60 GW of installed capacity worldwide. However, small wind turbines only account for an estimated 30 MW or 0.05% of this capacity. There are several technological issues that small wind turbines face, attributing to this minute fraction of their potential installed capacity. These issues include: 1) inefficient designs compared with utility-scale counterparts, 2) consumer noise and reliability concerns, 3) non-standardized performance specifications, and 4) the lack of non-biased testing centers.
This summer, RAEL is starting a small wind test center at our new lab facility in the Richmond Field Station to address these research issues.
Each turbine tested will be evaluated based on IREC small wind performance specifications (IEC-64000) and their performance published in industry standard formatting. This evaluation will include a performance field-test, an acoustic noise field-test and a system safety and function test. In addition, for new turbine designs, our testing process will include fulfilling all requirements for addition to the Emerging Renewables Program list of small wind turbines eligible for rebates from the California Energy Commission.