UC Davis Researchers Receive New Grant to Test a Drying Process that Reduces Food Waste and Energy Use

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) has awarded $790,000 to UC Davis to test a new technology to improve the drying methods used in food production. Moisture must be removed from harvested agricultural products to safely preserve them prior to processing into food products.

Researchers will test an innovative moisture-absorbing technology called drying beads, instead of relying on heated air to dehydrate foods such as grains, nuts, rice and seeds. The beads absorb water without using heat, reducing the use of energy by up to 50 percent during the drying process. The beads are reusable and can be reactivated, which would reduce drying costs over time.

The research is being led by principal investigator Irwin R. Donis-Gonzalez, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in UC Davis’ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“Drying agricultural produce is an energy-intensive process, and it is imperative to find alternative means of drying for the enhancement of food quality, safety, and economical operations, while reducing food losses and waste,” said Donis-Gonzalez.

According to researchers, this technology could save more than 1.06 quadrillion kilojoules of energy annually in the U.S. This is about the same amount of energy it takes to provide electricity to residents of New York, California and Florida for one year.

The $790,000 FFAR grant has also been matched with funding from the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for a total $1.5 million investment.

“This project exemplifies how new innovations can help us produce a safe, reliable food supply that uses resources more efficiently,” Rockey said.

Researchers on this project include Kent J. Bradford, co-principal investigator, distinguished professor at UC Davis; Kurt Kornbluth, co-principal investigator, assistant adjunct professor at UC Davis; Edward Spang, co-principal investigator, assistant professor at UC Davis; and Johan Van Asbrouck, collaborator, CEO of Rhino Research, Bangkok, Thailand.

See full release for more information.

UC Davis’ Center for Water-Energy Efficiency Receives $3.1M to Help Water Utilities Reduce California’s Energy Use & Emissions

By Kat Kerlin–

Over the next three and a half years, researchers at the University of California, Davis, will work with the Moulton Niguel Water District and Helio Energy Solutions to better understand how water utilities can reduce California’s energy use as the state works to meet its ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction goals.

The California Energy Commission awarded the Center for Water and Energy Efficiency at UC Davis $3.1 million to pilot-test a system to help water utilities optimize their energy use and reduce operational costs while continuing to meet customers’ water needs.

If successful, the pilot program could help balance the electrical grid’s intermittent distribution of renewable energy, while providing substantial savings to ratepayers.

Reducing strain on grid

Moulton Niguel Water District spends approximately $2 million per year to power its water services for 170,000 customers in southern Orange County. CWEE researchers will combine water system hydraulic modeling with Helio Energy Solution’s PredictEnergy software platform to create a demand management system designed to reduce Moulton Niguel’s energy consumption.

“If adopted widely by urban water systems in California, the strain on the grid during peak hours could be reduced significantly, leading to more reliable electricity at lower costs to consumers,” said Frank Loge, faculty director of CWEE, professor of civil and environmental engineering and principal investigator on the grant.

Simple plan: Pump when rates are lower

The project will use real-time energy analytics to develop an energy-management system that adapts to changing energy demands and different energy-rate structures for Moulton Niguel’s potable and recycled water systems. While the system is complex, the plan is simple: When energy rates are lower, Moulton Niguel will pump more water, and as rates rise, the district plans to cut back its power consumption.

“We want to develop a strategy that meets the needs of the grid and pays off for water utilities at the same time,” said Mike Murray, president of Helio Energy Solutions. “By partnering with UC Davis and the Moulton Niguel Water District, we will be able to provide our state with a solution that reliably and safely delivers results while incentivizing water districts to participate. We look forward to working together on this exciting new project.”

Lowering emissions

In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Water utilities, which require large amounts of power at every step of the water cycle, could be instrumental in reaching those emissions reduction goals. Roughly 20 percent of California’s electricity and more than 30 percent of its natural gas go to the water system, from pumping it for delivery to disposing of wastewater.

“At Moulton Niguel, we’re constantly identifying new ways to save our ratepayers money and reduce our carbon footprint,” said Joone Lopez, general manager at Moulton Niguel Water District. “The energy experts at CWEE are brilliant at finding new ways to be more efficient. With their help, we hope to be the model for the entire state.”

Media contact(s)

Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-7704, 530-750-9195 (cell), kekerlin@ucdavis.edu



Oct. 5th is Energy Efficiency Day

Here are some easy ways to get involved:

1. Take the Lightbulb Challenge–changing one incandescent light bulb in your home or office to an LED bulb can save energy and money.

Heading to the lighting aisle soon?  Keep these key factors in mind when selecting your light source:

  • Identify where the light source will be installed in your home and decide if you need an omnidirectional or directional light distribution
  • Replacing a traditional 60 W incandescent light bulb? Select a light source that produces ~800 lumens
  • Shopping for your home? Pick a light source with a correlated color temperature (CCT) in the residential range of 2,700 K – 3,000 K
  • Pick a light source that will last at least 10,000 hours (or about 9 years) and has a warranty of at least 5 years
  • Select a light source with high CRI, targeting lamps with 90+ CRI
  • Pick a dimmable light source that is compatible with your dimmers!

Full guidelines on How to Choose the Right Light developed in partnership with the California Energy Commission can be downloaded here.  The Pocket Guide is designed to be printed, trimmed and folded to fit in your pocket, purse or wallet so it can assist you in the lighting aisle!

2. Check out some additional ways you can save energy and save money, including:

  • Sealing leaks
  • Installing a programmable thermostat
  • Cleaning and changing your furnace filters
  • Selecting ENERGY STARTM products
  • Turning off lights and unplugging electronics that are not in use
  • Running only full loads of laundry

3. Join the conversation on social media with #EEDAY2017

UC Davis Heads to Denver to Compete in the 2017 Solar Decathlon

Beginning on October 5, 2017, UC Davis will compete alongside 12 different teams in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon hosted in Denver, Colorado.

Click here to see a video about their house.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition made up of 10 contests that challenge student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency.

Free public tours of all the homes will be available from October 5-9 and October 12-15. Please visit solardecathlon.gov for the full schedule and to learn more.

For the first time, the Solar Decathlon is offering at-home visitors a unique virtual event experience. Visit the Solar Decathlon Facebook page to experience daily tours broadcast live.

UC Davis Welcomes its Inaugural Class of Energy Graduate Group Students

We are excited to welcome UC Davis’ inaugural class of 16 UC Davis Energy Graduate Group students. These students will earn master’s or doctoral degrees in Energy Systems and will receive the interdisciplinary training required to tackle the energy challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

During their first week on campus, September 11-14, students are participating in an orientation program–Power Trip–where they will be introduced to a wide variety of energy-related research and policy work at UC Davis and in the Sacramento/Bay area through discussions with researchers and leaders from industry, government, public interest groups, and academia.

For more information on the Energy Graduate Group, click here.

UC Davis Ranked 9th in the Nation for ‘Public Good’

UC Davis was ranked 9th in the nation by Washington Monthly magazine for contributions to the “public good.” The magazine defines the “public good” as social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and Ph.D.s) and service (encouraging students to give back to their country).

To read the full article, please click here.

Kurt Kornbluth Received UC Davis’ Inaugural Chancellor’s International Engagement Achievement Award

Kurt Kornbluth, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and founding director of the Program for International Energy Technologies, which, through its D-Lab courses, involves students in solving real-life energy problems in developing countries, is one of  two recipients of UC Davis’ inaugural Chancellor’s International Engagement Achievement Awards.

To read the full article, please click here.