Concentrating solar-thermal power technologies can help eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector. UC Davis and eight partnering institutions were selected to receive $4.6 M from the Department of Energy to advance high temperature receiver development for industrial process heat and solar thermal power generation. The team, led by Vinod Narayanan and Erfan Rasouli at UC Davis, will design, develop, and de-risk a 150-kilowatt solar-thermal receiver able to heat supercritcal carbon dioxide or air to temperatures from 600-900°C.
We hosted an exciting round of seminars as part of our spring Energy Bites. This series features the work of students and staff on campus that are striving to advance our energy-related research and its application. With presentations on everything from floatovolatics to carbon emissions accounting and UC Davis’ district energy progress, there was something to pique everyone’s interest. [Watch Presentations]
Research Team Selected for $4.6 M Department of Energy Award to Advance Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power
Amanda Rupiper Featured in Smart Water Magazine
Study Shows Benefits of a Proposed District Energy System Design
Sabbie Miller Receives NSF Career Award
Lessons Learned on Decarbonizing Affordable Housing
A small Nevada wildflower named Tiehm’s buckwheat might still be living in obscurity if it had not happened to grow in soil full of lithium. As it is, that could prove its downfall.
Lithium is needed to make the high-powered batteries that are helping the world transition to electric vehicles. Demand is soaring, and mining companies are eager to take it out of the ground at several new sites in Nevada, already home to the only existing lithium mine in the U.S.
“One guy on a bulldozer could drive it extinct in one afternoon,” says Patrick Donnelly, the Great Basin Director for the Center for Biological Diversity and one of the flower’s biggest advocates.
He and some other conservationists see the flower and the mine as emblematic of a broad and disturbing trend: There is a growing conflict, they say, between efforts to address two environmental crises—a rapidly warming climate on the one hand, and a staggering rise in extinction on the other.
Homes and businesses use over 25 percent of California’s energy. With a number of different space heating and cooling technologies available to developers, it is important to understand and quantify potential greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts.
A study, completed by the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC), analyzed the GHG emissions for two different heating and cooling options for a proposed development in Davis – the Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus (DiSC). Researchers analyzed GHG emissions for: 1) the proposed all-electric, high-efficiency design, which would use packaged heat pump equipment for heating and cooling the buildings and 2) a potential upgrade to an all-electric, very high efficiency design, which would use a district energy system. A district energy system uses a central plant heat pump and chiller to heat and cool water that is piped to buildings for heating and cooling.
“Based on predicted energy consumption data provided by Trane, we found that a district energy system could further improve energy efficiency by 26%, reduce total energy consumption by 14%, and reduce GHG emissions by 16% over the already highly efficient proposed design,” said lead researcher David Vernon, Co-Director of Engineering for the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center.
DiSC energy system options
DiSC is a proposed development that would build new residential, office, laboratory, and manufacturing buildings on the eastern edge of Davis. The developer team is required by the Davis City Council to build an all-electric design with an energy efficiency level 30% more efficient than required by Title 24 building codes.
“The developer funded us to look at a district energy system design with large thermal energy storage because it has the potential to greatly reduce GHG emissions,” Vernon said. “It can help stabilize the grid by using energy when renewable generation is high and reducing energy consumption when renewable generation is low.”
To meet California’s climate goals requires large increases in renewable energy generation, energy storage, and load shifting technologies. District energy systems with large thermal energy storage have the potential to be an effective energy storage and load shifting strategy. The WCEC mission is to advance design, monitoring, and objective reporting of the performance of these types of technologies to inform policy and economic decisionmakers.
Energy modeling and analysis
The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) manufacturer Trane completed energy models of the proposed baseline and district energy system designs and provided the hourly energy consumption results. The WCEC researchers then used these hourly energy consumption results to calculate Time Dependent Valuation—a metric that incorporates the social and environmental impacts of energy used to evaluate energy efficiency, total energy consumption, and GHG emissions of the designs.
“Our analysis shows that district energy systems offer significant opportunities to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions compared to more common HVAC designs,” said Vernon. “It is important to note that our results are on the conservative side, and implementation of this design could result in even larger GHG savings.”
This study was funded by Ramco Enterprises, Inc. and the Buzz Oates Group of Companies.
On April 25, 2022, UC Davis hosted an Industrial Decarbonization Symposium, where over 150 people from around the world met to discuss near- and medium-term opportunities for decarbonization of California’s industry. Thank you to our moderators, speakers, and attendees for making this event so wonderful and informative. We look forward to continuing to collaborate on this important topic. You can view presentations and photos on our website. [View or Website]
Hourly Accounting Recommended for Understanding Carbon Emissions of Electricity Consumption
Thank You to Our Give Day Donors
Understanding Non-Energy Impacts of Residential Retrofits on Occupants
Join Us for our Spring Seminar Series
Join us on April 25, 2022, for the UC Davis Industrial Decarbonization Symposium. This in-person event will bring together public and private sector stakeholders to discuss near- and medium-term opportunities for decarbonization of California’s industry. Conversations will explore ways industry, utilities, regulators, and researchers can partner together to advance cost-effective solutions that reduce GHG emissions and increase resiliency and load flexibility. While the focus of this symposium will be on California, the solutions explored will be relevant nationally and internationally.
[Register for Free]
Lighting Center Welcomes New Associate Director
Leak Reduction is the Most Cost-Effective Urban Water Management Tool
In a study published in Environmental Research Letters, researchers used data from over 800 utilities across 4 states to characterize water losses across the country. They developed a model to assess the economically efficient level of losses and used that model to compare various water loss regulations and modeling approaches. The model shows that for a median utility it is economically efficient to reduce water losses by 34.7%. While uniform approaches are not recommended, researchers found that applying utility-specific solutions can save water at a profit for both utilities and society. [Read the Article]
New Sloan Foundation Grant on Renewable Energy and Wildlife Distribution Ranges for the United States
Do-It-Yourself Box Fan Air Filter Efficiently Reduces Suspended Particle Concentrations Indoors
UC Davis Give Day – April 22-23
Join Us for our Spring Seminar Series
The Energy and Efficiency Institute, in partnership with the Institute of Transportation Studies and the Policy Institute launched a new Environmental Justice (EJ) Fellowship to connect university-based research programs and personnel with community expertise and knowledge. We are excited to introduce our first cohort of 11 fellows! [Learn More]
Professor Wins UC National Lab Funding to Study Reuse of Captured CO2
Publication Explores Teachers’ Experiences of Ventilation in California K-12 Classrooms
In a study published in Indoor Air, researchers surveyed 84 teachers across 11 California schools about their perceptions of environmental quality as it related to monitored indoor environmental quality (IEQ) data from their classrooms. Researchers found that teachers did not accurately perceive ventilation; in fact, those in classrooms with poorer ventilation were more satisfied with IEQ. [Read the Article]
Assistant Professor Receives NSF Career Award
Sabbie Miller received an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award–a prestigious award recognizing junior faculty who have the potential to become leaders in their fields. Miller’s research focuses on designing sustainable infrastructure materials and minimizing their environmental impacts.
Publication Presents GHG Forecasts for Electrification of Space Heating
In the most recent issue of Energy Policy, researchers present the first detailed emission forecasts for operating either a heat pump or gas furnace for residential heating over a 15-year period, starting in year 2022 through 2036, in six regions across the US. The population weighted US average results show emission reductions for a heat pump over furnace to be 38–53% for carbon dioxide, 53–67% for 20-Year global warming potential (GWP), and 44–60% for 100-Year GWP, with reductions increasing over time. [Read the Article]
Energy Equity Seminar Series Continues
Two of our graduate students launched the first annual Energy Justice Seminar, a space dedicated to discussing the multifaceted energy justice issues that are embedded in our energy system. This seminar has been developed based on the recognition that many energy topics have nuance and historical roots in issues of justice that deserve dedicated discussion and study. [Learn More]
Every Thursday at 2pm PST through March 10, 2022
April 25, 2022 at the UC Davis Conference Center
Stay Tuned for More Information
Solar panels can be placed on your roof, on a plot of land, or basically anywhere else where they are anchored to something solid. That said, there are only so many solid spaces available to install them. To beat climate change, our electricity mix is going to need a lot more renewable energy systems to take over fossil fuels. Many in the solar industry are looking for a new home for solar panels—possibly even floating on water.
Floating solar farms have been around for over a decade, but water-bound panels became much more prominent in the last few years. The basic idea is to attach solar panels to plastic floats which then drift on a body of water. These floating solar arrays are typically placed on man-made bodies of water—a town’s water reservoir, an irrigation reservoir, a water treatment facility—as to avoid interfering with plant and animal species that live in natural bodies of water. For instance, the United States’ largest floating solar farm sits on a wastewater pond in California and has a nearly five megawatt capacity.
Classrooms are often under-ventilated, posing risks for airborne disease transmission as schools have reopened amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While technical solutions to ensure adequate air exchange are crucial, this research focuses on teachers’ perceptions and practices that may also have important implications for achieving a safe classroom environment. We report on a (pre- pandemic) survey of 84 teachers across 11 California schools, exploring their perceptions of environmental quality in relation to monitored indoor environmental quality (IEQ) data from their classrooms. Teachers were not educated regarding mechanical ventilation. Errors in HVAC system installation and programming contributed to misunderstandings (because mechanical ventilation was often not performing as it should) and even occasionally made it possible for teachers to turn off the HVAC fan (to reduce noise). Teachers did not accurately perceive (in)sufficient ventilation; in fact, those in classrooms with poorer ventilation were more satisfied with IEQ, likely due to more temperature fluctuations when ventilation rates were higher combined with occupants’ tendency to conflate perceptions of air quality and temperature. We conclude that classroom CO2 monitoring and teacher education are vital to ensure that teachers feel safe in the classroom and empowered to protect the health of themselves and their students.
Happy New Year! We were delighted to end 2021 with our Board of Advisors Meeting and a 15th anniversary celebration dinner. Thank you to everyone that joined us! It was wonderful to connect in person and celebrate this milestone. We look forward to many more years together. [Pictures from the Event]