Humboldt State University

People on the Ground: Community Profiles

Ben Scurfield

Ben Scurfield depends on the sun for his livelihood—in more ways than one.

Scurfield came to Humboldt County from his home state of Massachusetts in 1999 to attend Humboldt State and study environmental science. Shortly after arriving he landed a job with a local solar contractor where he worked for four years researching, installing and becoming an expert in solar energy systems. It was tough juggling a job, school and family, and eventually he left Humboldt State to concentrate on starting his own business: Scurfield Solar.

"I received my contractor's license and started the business while still at Humboldt State," Scurfield says. "We've been very successful so far and hope to keep growing."

While big beams of radiant sunshine might not be the first thing people think of when they picture Humboldt County, the area has more than enough of the sun's energy to make a solar energy system viable, Scurfield says.

"I believe in solar energy and I live with it everyday. I have a system installed at my house in Eureka and last year from March to October I used no back up power at all, just the sun."

Although he wasn't able to finish his degree at HSU, Scurfield received his Associate of Arts degree from College of the Redwoods in Eureka. He currently teaches a solar thermal class at CR through the Construction Technology Department. Additionally, Scurfield is a member of the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology steering committee and has helped install solar energy and hot water systems at the CCAT house on campus.

"From an environmental standpoint, solar helps cut down on CO2 and helps us live lighter on the planet," Scurfield explains. "It also promotes being self sufficient when people can control their own energy generation."

Currently, an inverter for a solar energy system has a life span of about 15 years and the photovoltaic panels last anywhere from 25 to 30 years. Scurfield says he would like to see more emphasis on the sustainability of solar power from start to finish.

"Right now the panels and other items are not recyclable and work needs to be done to correct that," Scurfield says. "The system is not truly renewable unless we can grind it up and make something new out of it. Right now the industry is worried about efficiency and isn't looking at the entire life cycle, but with time that will change."