Zero Net Energy Projects 2018

Energy demands in developed economies continue to dominate the world energy requirements. This trend of increasing energy use, which depends heavily on fossil fuels, is expected to continue to rise as other economies continue to develop. Through the project-based, hands-on Path to Zero Net Energy course, PIET addresses energy efficiency, renewable energy issues in the stationary and transportation sectors in the particular context of UC Davis campus and medical center, the former: a model of a small city with complete infrastructure; the latter: an energy-intensive hospital and research facility.

Recent Path to Zero Net Energy projects are described below. Please refer to the library for earlier projects.

Projects of Spring 2018:

  • Putting Buildings to Sleep, University of California, Davis

Based on available campus energy data, UC Davis buildings use up to 50% of their peak electricity demand when the building is unoccupied. In an effort to reduce this waste, students performed energy audits, interviewed occupants, analyzed usage data, and experimented with equipment turn-downs to unnecessary energy demand  in two targeted buildings. This project identified audiovisual equipment and improper thermostat settings as the largest contributors. Were an effective turn-down strategy implemented in these buildings, the students estimate between $37,000 to $148,000 could be saved in energy costs. The students also specified a programmatic platform that infers vacancy by combining inputs such as CO2, PIR, and WiFi connection data. This could be used to produce a signal that initiates automatic entry of devices into “vacancy mode”.  Project Report Project Poster

  • Mclaughlin Natural Reserve Energy Audit
  • The McLaughlin Reserve consists of only 2 buildings on 7000 acres of land. Though these two buildings are minimally occupied, they require $33,000 in annual energy costs. Students performed a full energy audit of the facilities, cataloging end-use devices, evaluating usage behavior, and identifying areas for improvement. It was found that heating and cooling accounts for 45% of total energy use. This could be significantly reduced by installing a more efficient HVAC system. This replacement was estimated to have a 5 year payback period and, if combined with the recommended lighting retrofits (see “Lighting Retrofit at McLaughlin Reserve), could reduce usage by 27,000 kWh per year resulting in $6000 of annual energy savings.  Project Report  Project Poster

  • Bodega Bay Hydro-power Feasibility
  • As part of the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative, Bodega Marine Lab is working to become the world’s first zero net carbon marine research and education facility. Each day, thousands of gallons of seawater are pumped up a 50-foot cliff to the facility. Students were tasked with investigating the feasibility of a small hydropower installation to recover some of this embodied energy. Students used historical outflow data to identify the best three designs and performed an economic analysis to estimate payback time for each. Their results show that the best design uses a crossflow turbine and has an estimated payback period of 21 years. Project Report Project Poster

  • ZNE Construction at Bodega Marine Laboratory
  • In addition to being outdated and energy inefficient, the current housing facilities at Bodega Marine Lab (BML) are being overtaken by surrounding marshlands. As an environmental entity, BML wants to relinquish this land to the marsh and build new Zero Net Energy housing facilities elsewhere. Because it involves the environmentally sensitive coast, new construction must first be approved by the California Coastal Commission. For this project, students analyzed case studies to define potential regulatory barriers and identify any possibilities for exception due to in-kind trade of land and the ZNE nature of the facility. Their research shows a high probability of approval for the new ZNE housing facility and provides an approach to the application process as well as suggestions of how to best frame the project for increased approval odds. Project Report Project Poster

  • Energy and Efficiency in UC Davis Greenhouses
  • With over 200 units running 24/7, the UC Davis greenhouses comprise a significant portion of campus energy use. Students identified plausible energy efficiency retrofits for the most prevalent greenhouse types by employing energy audit techniques, literature review, and historical data analysis. The students found that simply changing the Orchard Park lighting system to better match dusk and dawn times for the Summer months would yield an annual energy savings of $13,800 and installing dusk-to-dawn switches for year-round matching would yield annual savings of $53,400.  Project Report Project Poster

  • Energy Savings Of Evaporative Cooler Vent Covers

The UC Davis greenhouses at Orchard Park are functional but outdated. The most notable failing is the lack of covers for the evaporative cooler pads, which results in large-scale infiltration of cold air during periods of heating. Students combined an economic analysis with a theoretical air flow model, IR imaging, and literature review to determine the feasibility of vent cover installation at all Orchard Park greenhouses. Results show an annual energy savings of $109,000 compared to a total project cost of $233,000 – a payback period of 2.1 years. If the vent covers remain in place for 10 years, a net savings of $860,000 could be expected. Project Report Project Poster

  • McLaughlin Lighting Retrofit

The facilities at the McLaughlin Reserve were previously owned an operated by a mining company, and are equipped with lighting that no longer suits the use case. The current sodium vapor lighting fixtures require 1000W each, and are partially responsible for a very high electricity bill. Students investigated what impact the current lighting system has on overall energy use and designed high-, medium-, and low-investment options for retrofits. Methods used to provide this involved energy audit techniques, literature review, and vendor discussion. Results show lighting is responsible for 12,000 kWh of annual electricity use at The Reserve. Replacing the fixtures could reduce this by 57%.  Project Report Project Poster