Skip to main content
You are here

Sustainability at UC Davis

By Andy Fell on December 9, 2015 in

The University of California, Davis, is committed to environmental sustainability on and off campus. Along with other UC campuses, UC Davis is one of over 200 universities and colleges to sign the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge. UC Davis, and the entire UC system, have committed to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

  • UC Davis solar plant generates 14 percent of campus needs
  • UC Davis West Village a lab for zero-net energy development
  • Solar Decathlon a win for affordable housing 
  • UC Davis pioneers water saving for wine industry
  • Helping replenish California's groundwater
  • Saving water at UC Davis
  • Smarter lighting and better energy use at UC Davis

----------------------------------------------------------------------

UC Davis solar plant generates 14 percent of campus needs

The UC Davis campus is home to a 62-acre solar power plant, the largest in the UC system and thought to be the largest of its type on any U.S. college campus. Built and operated by SunPower, the plant generates 14 percent of electricity needs for the Davis campus and will reduce the campus’s carbon footprint by an estimated 9 percent, or 14,000 metric tons. Combined with other purchases of solar and hydroelectric energy, the plant is part of UC Davis’ plan to obtain 60 percent of its electricity needs from renewable and carbon-neutral sources by 2017.

Additional information:

Media contact(s):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

UC Davis West Village a lab for zero-net energy development

UC Davis West Village, the nation’s largest planned zero net energy community, continues to work toward its goal of producing 100 percent of the energy it uses. From September 2013 to August 2014, the community generated 82 percent of the energy it consumed, according to a recent report by UC Davis and the West Village Community Partnership LLC.

Neighborhoods and buildings are increasingly being designed and promoted as zero net energy, but whether they can meet that goal can only be verified with real residents and businesses in place. Opened in 2011, West Village now houses nearly 2,000 residents, mostly UC Davis students, as well as several UC Davis energy and transportation research centers and the Honda Smart Home. It serves as a living laboratory that explores how zero net energy design works in practice and has attracted worldwide interest.

Additional information:

Media contact(s):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Solar Decathlon a win for affordable housing

Can zero-net energy construction be affordable for farmworker housing? The UC Davis students of Team Aggie Sol proved it with their entry for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, winning first place in the category of affordability. Their 1,000-square foot home included innovations such as a roof that collects rainwater that is circulated for heating and cooling the home.

The competition ran for two years and involved more than 300 UC Davis students with a core team of 40. Finals were held at UC Irvine in October. The team plans to reassemble the home at a campus location. 

Additional information:

Media contact(s):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

UC Davis pioneers water saving for wine industry

UC Davis scientists are showing winemakers how they can use less water and energy and run sustainable operations  — aiming to reduce water use from more than 6 gallons per gallon of wine down to just 1 gallon of water per gallon of wine.

A two-year study of wineries in the Napa and Lodi regions, led by Maya Buelow of UC Davis, found that wastewater from washing and cleaning in wineries can be used to irrigate vineyards. Cleaning agents add salts to wastewater that are not removed by treatment, but the study found that levels of salts at the wineries were usually below thresholds to pose a hazard for most wine grape rootstocks and soils. Similar approaches could be used in other agricultural operations, such as dairy, pork, poultry and food processing.

In related efforts, the Department of Viticulture and Enology is developing new precision vineyard irrigation networks, drought-tolerant wine grape rootstocks, and efficient systems for reclaiming and reusing winery wash water.

UC Davis winery goes LEED platinum

On the UC Davis campus, the Teaching and Research Winery is the first winery in the world to receive LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The adjacent Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building is designed to enable UC Davis’ winery, brewery and food-processing facility to operate in a self-sustainable manner through onsite capture of energy and water. The 8,500 square-foot building will eventually house equipment and systems for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide from wine fermentation, and for filtering and recirculating water for wine, beer and food processing. It is expected to be the first building at any university to be certified Net Zero Energy under the Living Building Challenge and only the second such building in California.

Additional information:

Media contact(s):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Helping replenish California's groundwater

As California’s drought grinds on, the state is in chronic groundwater overdraft: more water is being pumped out of underground sources than filters back in. UC Davis researchers are encouraged by early results from tests to see if deliberately flooding farmland in winter can replenish aquifers without harming crops or affecting drinking water.

“On-farm flooding looks very promising,” said Professor Helen Dahlke, a hydrology expert with the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. "We're pleasantly surprised by how quickly water tables have responded to on-farm flooding without damage to crops."

Not all crops or soils are suitable for deliberate flooding, but alfalfa, pears, wine grapes, and some almonds, peaches and plums might be suitable. The California Soil Resource Lab at UC Davis has developed an interactive map of the state that shows areas best suited for “groundwater banking,” especially if this year’s predicted El Niño brings a wet winter. 

Additional information:

Media contact(s):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Saving water at UC Davis

From July 2014 to July 1 2015, UC Davis reduced its use of nonpotable irrigation water by 30 percent, or 100 million gallons, compared to the same period ending in 2013. The cuts were achieved with targeted tree care including “watering bags” around trees, irrigation improvements and converting lawns to other plants. We’re continuing to look for ways to save water while keeping our campus beautiful.

The Davis and Sacramento campuses have saved 50 million gallons of potable water through efficiency projects, and another 61 million gallons a year will be saved by switching to recycled water in four cooling towers on the Davis campus. 

Additional information:

Media contact(s):

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Smarter lighting and better energy use at UC Davis

The California Lighting Technology Center at UC Davis is dedicated to accelerating development and commercialization of energy-efficient lighting and daylighting technologies. The center carries out research and development in its laboratories, and provides instruction and training as well as workshops and outreach activities.

UC Davis is implementing these technologies on campus through new, more efficient construction; lighting retrofits in existing buildings; and more efficient lighting of parking lots, paths and roadways on campus. These and other energy-saving measures have helped UC Davis cut energy consumption in buildings by an average of 28 percent over the past eight years.  

Additional information:

Media contact(s):

Media contact(s)

Andy Fell, Research news (emphasis: biological and physical sciences, and engineering), 530-752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu

Categories