Research Team Selected for $4.6 M Department of Energy Award to Advance Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power

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.

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UC Davis Energy News – May 2022

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]

Environmental Research Journal Cover

Research Team Selected for $4.6 M Department of Energy Award to Advance Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power 

 
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. [Learn More]
Give Day thank you

Amanda Rupiper Featured in Smart Water Magazine

 

Amanda Rupiper, a post-doctoral researcher with the Center for Water-Energy Efficiency was interviewed on her career path and recent research related to water loss management. Amanda and colleagues 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. Researchers found that for a median utility it is economically efficient to reduce water losses by 34.7% and that applying utility-specific solutions can save water at a profit for both utilities and society. [Read the Article]
Energy and Buildings Journal Cover

Study Shows Benefits of a Proposed District Energy System Design

 

A study by the Western Cooling Efficiency Center analyzed the greenhouse gas emissions for two different heating and cooling options for a proposed development in Davis – the Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus (DiSC). Compared to an all-electric, high-efficiency heat pump based system, researchers 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%. [Read the Report]
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Sabbie Miller Receives NSF Career Award

 

Sabbie Miller, an assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and an Energy Graduate Group faculty member, received a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award. This prestigious award is one of the agency’s highest honors for young faculty and funds five-year research and education projects. Sabbie’s research focuses on designing sustainable infrastructure materials and minimizing their environmental impacts. Congratulations!
[Learn More]
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Lessons Learned on Decarbonizing Affordable Housing

 
A new study explores developers’ experiences with low-carbon multi-family affordable housing using three case studies that illustrate different pathways to decarbonization. The work, by researchers at the Western Cooling Efficiency Center, was published in Building Research & Information. The case studies outline challenges and strategies to overcome these challenges, which can help inform future housing development efforts pursuing lower-carbon designs. [Read the Study]

Activists fear a new threat to biodiversity—renewable energy

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.

But Tiehm’s buckwheat is rarer than lithium. It grows only on approximately 10 acres of land at Rhyolite Ridge in southwestern Nevada—right where one of the new lithium mines is planned.

“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. 

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A District Energy System Design Could Cut More Emissions for Proposed Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus

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.

Media Resources

UC Davis Energy News – April 2022

group shot at the Industrial Decarb Symposium

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]

Environmental Research Journal Cover

Hourly Accounting Recommended for Understanding Carbon Emissions of Electricity Consumption 

 

The current practice for accounting emissions from consumed electricity uses annual-average grid emission factors. A new study by UC Davis researchers calculated emission inventories for thousands of residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural facilities across the US, and compared annual averages to hourly accounting of emissions. Results show that annual-average accounting can over- or under-estimate carbon inventories by as much as 35% in certain settings, but result in effectively no bias in others. The authors recommend that hourly accounting be adopted as the best practice for emission inventories of consumed electricity. [Read the Study]
Give Day thank you

Thank You to Our Give Day Donors

 

This UC Davis Give Day, over $26,000 was raised for our energy and transportation programs! Thank you to all the donors who helped us reach and surpass our goal. We are so grateful for your support and generosity. The top priority of these gifts are our extraordinary students. If you missed Give Day but would still like to contribute, gifts can be made here. [Learn More]
Energy and Buildings Journal Cover

Understanding Non-Energy Impacts of Residential Retrofits on Occupants

 

Residential energy retrofits have the potential to generate significant non-energy impacts on occupants, but the understanding of these impacts has been hampered by the lack of a shared approach to studying them. A detailed literature review by researchers revealed several common tendencies that limit the generalizability of findings. The authors propose a new framework that supports a comprehensive, unbiased, human-centered, and standardized approach to conceptualizing non-energy impacts. [Read the Study]
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Join Us for our Spring Seminar Series

 

Every Thursday this spring we are hosting our Energy Bites seminar series in-person and remotely. Each seminar has 2 short presentation “bites” over the lunch hour (12pm to 1pm PST). We hope you can join us and check out some of our latest research. [Learn More]

Upcoming Events

Energy Bites Seminar Series (In-Person & Virtual)
Every Thursday at 12pm PST April 14 – May 20
Learn More

UC Davis Energy News – March 2022

logo for the Industrial Decarbonization Symposium

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]

photo of Jae Yong Suk

Lighting Center Welcomes New Associate Director

 

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Professor Jae Yong Suk. Suk joins the California Lighting Technology Center as Associate Director, and the Department of Design as an associate professor teaching lighting and daylighting design courses. Suk brings a unique background as a highly accomplished researcher, professor, and internationally recognized lighting designer. [Learn More]
Water scientist examining water sample

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]

desert background

New Sloan Foundation Grant on Renewable Energy and Wildlife Distribution Ranges for the United States

 

Associate Professor Rebecca R. Hernandez and colleagues received a grant from the Energy and Environment Program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to anticipate and understand conflicts between renewable energy installations and wildlife. Researchers will conduct literature reviews and surveys, hold workshops, and develop detailed maps to intersect species’ climate change-induced range shifts with maps of renewable energy siting potential for the entire United States.
illustration and graph of DIY filter box

Do-It-Yourself Box Fan Air Filter Efficiently Reduces Suspended Particle Concentrations Indoors

 

In a study published in Aerosol Science and Technology, researchers systematically characterized the performance of a “do-it-yourself” air filter, known as the Corsi-Rosenthal Box, that uses MERV-13 filters coupled with a box fan. They used both research-grade instrumentation and a low-cost particle sensor to evaluate clean air delivery rates. Overall, the Corsi-Rosenthal Box demonstrated exceptional performance relative to most commercially available filter-based air cleaners. [Read Article]
Give day logo

UC Davis Give Day – April 22-23

 

Each year, UC Davis hosts Give Day – a campus-wide online fundraising event that gives everyone a chance to come together to support their favorite programs. By giving to our Institute you will help advance our top priority areas: environmental justice and equity, student career development, and our Energy Graduate Group students. [Learn More]
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Join Us for our Spring Seminar Series

 

Every Thursday this spring we will be hosting our Energy Bites seminar series in-person and remotely. Each seminar will have 2 short presentation “bites” over the lunch hour (12pm to 1pm PST). We hope you can join us and check out some of our latest research. Our first seminar is Thursday, April 14. [Learn More]

Upcoming Events

Energy Bites Seminar Series (In-Person & Virtual)
Every Thursday at 12pm PST April 14 – May 20
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UC Davis Give Day
April 22-23
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Industrial Decarbonization Symposium
April 25 at the UC Davis Conference Center
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UC Davis Energy News – February 2022

Paper maiche faces surrounding the Earth

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]

Headshot of Louise Berben

Professor Wins UC National Lab Funding to Study Reuse of Captured CO2

 
Professor Louise Berben is the lead principal investigator for one of five UC-wide research projects recently awarded nearly $19 million in grants by the UC National Laboratory Fees Research Program. Berben’s lab will develop new ways to divert CO2 from waste streams and convert it into clean, renewable fuels and other useful products. [Read More]
cover of Indoor Air Journal

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]

Headshot of Sabbie Miller

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.

Cover of Energy Policy Journal

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 logo

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]

Upcoming Events

Energy Equity Winter Seminar Series (Virtual)
Every Thursday at 2pm PST through March 10, 2022
Learn More
 
Industrial Decarbonization Symposium
April 25, 2022 at the UC Davis Conference Center
Stay Tuned for More Information
Egret standing on solar panels

Floating Solar Panels Could Be the Next Big Thing in Clean Energy

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.

The floating solar industry is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade, but only about two percent of this year’s new solar installations are water-bound.  

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Market Transformation Research Group Publishes Study on Human Factors and Indoor Air Quality in Schools

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.

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UC Davis Energy News – January 2022

EEI Board of Directors 2022

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]

Headshot of Ben Finkelor

Executive Director to Serve “On Loan” to the California Energy Commission

 
Starting February 1, Benjamin Finkelor, Executive Director for the Energy and Efficiency Institute, will serve “on loan” to the California Energy Commission as a Special Advisor to Vice Chair Siva Gunda. The appointment will extend for 14 months. During Ben’s absence, Alan Meier will serve as Acting Executive Director. [Read More]
Lighting Laboratory in Mexico

Lighting Center at University Autonoma Guadalajara Opens

 
On December 9-10, 2021 UC Davis officials celebrated the opening of a new lighting center in Guadalajara with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and partnership meetings, including an MOU singing between UC Davis and the University Autonoma Guadlajara (UAG). The California Lighting Technology Center has been working with UAG for the past 4 years to design and develop this new center.  [Watch Video]
Denmark Consulate General group photo

New Partnership with Consulate General of Denmark

 
We are excited to be part of a new agreement of cooperation between the Consulate General of Denmark and UC Davis to further the development of basic scientific and technological research and graduate and undergraduate education. [Pictures from the Signing Ceremony]
GreenMetric logo

UC Davis Leads the Way in Sustainability

 
According to the 2021 GreenMetric rankings, UC Davis is #1 in North America and #5 in the world. UC Davis also ranked 7th in top performers for green buildings in the 2021 AASHE Sustainable Campus Index and was acknowledged for its contributions to NXTerra, an inter-system collaboration for climate action education. [Learn More]
Image of R-466A Case Study

Successful Demonstration of Low GWP Refrigerant 

 
The Western Cooling Efficiency Center evaluated a non-flammable, low global warming potential refrigerant – R-466A in a packaged rooftop unit on the UC Davis campus. The unit was designed for use with R-410A – the most common refrigerant used today in unitary air conditioning equipment. Researchers found the rooftop unit performed similarly with R-466A in terms of capacity and COP across a wide range of outdoor air conditions. [Learn More]
Energy Equity Seminar Series logo

Energy Equity Seminar Series Launches

 
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]
Worker installing indoor lighting system

Lighting Education Videos Released

 
The California Lighting Technology Center recently published five additional videos focused on 2019 Title 24, Part 6 lighting requirements. The videos are designed to increase knowledge and implementation of code-compliant lighting in California’s non-residential and residential buildings. [Find out More]

Upcoming Events

Energy Equity Winter Seminar Series (Virtual)
Every Thursday at 2pm PST through March 10, 2022