Category Archives: Green

UCR Researchers Awarded $1.3 Million From USDA For Green Energy Research

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sarah Nightingale and published in UCR Today on May 11, 2016.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

Charles Wyman, Distinguished Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and holder of the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), and Charles Cai, Research Engineer at CE-CERT and Adjunct Assistant Professor, both at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, have received a $1,297,725 award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will fund research on developing commercially-viable processes to create biofuels and chemicals from waste plant materials.

The award will support a project that aims to convert poplar wood into ethanol and polyurethanes based on novel platforms for pretreatment and lignin polymer synthesis. The patented method used by the Wyman/Cai team, called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF), was developed as a versatile and efficient way to convert raw agricultural and forestry residues and other plant matter into both biofuels and chemicals.

Partnering with the University of Tennessee Knoxville and MG Fuels LLC, this UCR project aims to bring industry closer to producing fuels and chemicals from biomass at high enough yields and low enough costs to become a viable alternative or replacement for petroleum-based fuels and chemicals. The current research project is expected to increase revenue for bio-refineries and offset pretreatment costs to improve overall process economics.

“This project takes advantage of the unique ability of our novel CELF technology to effectively fractionate lignin from low-cost non-food sources of cellulosic biomass such as agricultural and forestry residues for conversion into polyurethanes that increase revenues for biorefineries while also enhancing ethanol yields,” Wyman said. Wyman leads a team of researchers at UCR’s CE-CERT who are advancing technologies for conversion of cellulosic biomass into sustainable transportation fuels.

This research is an extraordinary example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, and UC Riverside is at the forefront.  The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support research and exploration in the scientific community.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, nation, and world to follow.

UCR was one of seven institutions selected Monday (May 9) to receive a share of the $10 million joint investment by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) towards research that will drive more efficient biofuels production and agricultural feedstock improvements.

These awards were made through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program run by NIFA and DOE to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and bio-based products, helping to replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles, and diversify our nation’s energy choices.

“Advancements in bioenergy research will help protect our national energy security, reduce pollution, and bolster our energy supply,” said Cathie Woteki, Under Secretary for USDA’s Research, Education & Economics mission area, in a statement. “Producing more renewable and bio-based energy can also revitalize rural communities with a new economic market and provide farmers a profitable and sustainable investment through on-farm energy resources.”

The USDA funded projects at UCR, the University of Montana; Dartmouth College; State University of New York; and North Carolina Biotechnology Center. The DOE funded projects by Ohio State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

To read the full article, click here.

CBU Earns Consecutive Tree Campus USA Recognition

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in CBU News & Events on February 26, 2015.)

Volunteers for the Autumn Arbor Day/Service Project gather for a picture before heading across campus to plant and cultivate trees on Dec 5. Photo Credit: cbu News & Events
Volunteers for the Autumn Arbor Day/Service Project gather for a picture before heading across campus to plant and cultivate trees on Dec 5. Photo Credit: cbu News & Events

For the second consecutive year California Baptist University has earned a Tree Campus USA recognition.

To obtain this distinction, CBU met five core standards set by Tree Campus USA in order to maintain an effective campus forest management. The requirements consist of having a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and a student service-learning project.

“Your entire campus community should be proud of your sustained commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Mary Sweeney, program manager at Arbor Day Foundation, in an email to CBU on the award.

Tree Campus USA, a national program launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota, honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation.

“Tree Campus USA is a distinction that the Arbor Day Foundation has come up with that says ‘We are all about trees,’” said Ed Schmachtenberger, manager of grounds and landscaping at CBU.

In December, for Autumn Arbor Day, CBU students, faculty and staff planted trees in parking lots and cultivated areas around existing trees.

Schmachtenberger said CBU has plans to plant up to 50 additional trees around campus. With the growing concern of climate change and pollution from fossil fuels, CBU is taking steps to reduce their foot print on the environment and promote the quality of life for all through intelligent growth of their campus.

To read the full article, click here.

“Autumn Arbor Day” Event Highlights Stewardship Efforts At CBU

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in cbu News & Events on December 7, 2015.)

Photo Credt: CBU News & Events
Photo Credt: CBU News & Events

About 40 students, faculty and staff of California Baptist University helped make the CBU campus a little greener at an Autumn Arbor Day service project on Dec. 5.

Five teams were assigned to planting trees in parking lots and cultivating and laying down new mulch for a big eucalyptus tree in the Colony residential area.

Ed Schmachtenberger, manager of grounds and landscaping, said there are plans to plant as many as 50 additional trees around campus.

Dr. Jacob Lanphere, assistant professor of environmental science, attended the event with his family. He said it was a wonderful opportunity for students to connect with nature.

“We talk about a lot of these things in the classroom, but when students get an opportunity to come out, be involved, get a little bit of exercise and be a part of it, they will always remember being involved in the community and making it look better, but also making the Earth look better,” he said.

Emily Borden, a creative writing sophomore, helped replace the mulch.

“I’m happy anytime trees are planted and I’m happy that I could help this tree flourish,” she said.

CBU is one of nine higher education institutions in California designated as a Tree Campus USA college by a program implemented by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Events like this not only help Riverside stay clean, but also creates a beautiful city for people to visit and live in. With our already outstanding landscape, year-round activities, and ample recreational options, Riverside has another reason for it to be a location of choice for people seeking a clean and beautiful place to live.

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RPU Uses Lithium Battery Technology In Power Plant Work Carts

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in the inlandempire.us on December 8, 2015.) TWO

Out at Riverside Public Utilities’ (RPU) Riverside Energy Resource Center (RERC) state-of-the-art is the norm.

The power plant facility features four, 49 megawatt (MW) natural gas fired turbine engines (similar to what powers a 747 jetliner), employs highly skilled personnel (many who have military backgrounds and jet engine maintenance training), and features technology that allows RPU to start one or all four RERC units within 10 minutes locally or remotely from the Power Resources headquarters downtown to provide up to 192 MW of power for RPU energy customers.

Now the 16-acre facility has begun using state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery technology in its work carts. “Over the last two years, our site and our staff have grown,” said RPU’s Generation Manager Chuck Casey. “To help us get around the complex, move parts, tools, and personnel, we started purchasing old golf carts.”

While the seven carts in RERC’s current fleet have greatly helped with efficiency around the plant, the issues of storing, maintaining, and constantly charging the carts’ lead-acid batteries quickly became the biggest costs to operating them.

Seeking alternatives to provide a cleaner, greener, and easier way to maintain the work carts, Utilities Generation Test Technician Johnny “Sonny” Voytilla and Utilities Senior Generation Test Technician William Patton ended up contacting Lithium Boost Technologies Inc. out of San Diego.

Lithium Boost’s patented technology provides a complete performance optimized lithium-ion battery system that retrofits older, lead-acid batteries in low-speed carts with state-of-the-art equipment.

“Since retrofitting our first two carts last month, we’ve already seen the benefits,” Casey said. Those include: no maintenance, the Lithium Boost system doesn’t require water filling; longer range and slower discharge, carts are now charged every other week instead of daily saving on electricity costs; and greater safety, as there are two less cords that present tripping hazards and two less sets of batteries full of sulfuric acid.

“We are very pleased that Riverside Public Utilities has selected our product to retrofit their carts with,” said Lithium Boost Technologies’ CEO Sam Lev. “In addition to the higher performance levels our products provide, RPU will also enjoy the environmental aspects of maintaining a lean and green electrical car fleet,” Lev said.

According to Lev, Lithium Boost’s batteries have a smaller footprint, last about 4 times longer than lead-acid (over 2,000 charging cycles), are four times lighter, and use 40 percent less electricity. They also feature a “fuel gage” meter that can tell staff how much battery power is left.

“It is great that Will and Sonny did the leg work to find a technology that provides us with such an increase in performance while adding the types of environmental benefits we embrace, encourage, and promote as an energy utility,” said RPU General Manager Girish Balachandran.

With the growing concern of climate change and pollution from fossil fuels, Riverside is taking steps to reduce their foot print on the environment and promote the quality of life for all through intelligent growth of their city.

For additional information on Lithium Boost Technologies Inc. products visit www.lithiumboost.com. For additional information on RPU, call us at (951) 826-5485 or log on to RiversidePublicUtilities.com

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside Non-Profit Is Keeping The Santa Ana River Clean And Beautiful

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Jordan E. Rosenfeld and published in Good.is on December 1, 2015.)

Inland Empire Waterkeepers clean up Mill Creek. Photo Credit: www.Good.is
Inland Empire Waterkeepers clean up Mill Creek. Photo Credit: www.Good.is

Southern California is famous for its beaches, but not many people know it’s home to one of the most unique river ecosystems in the world, the 110-mile Santa Ana River, which is fed by many smaller tributaries. It’s such a special environment that famed biologist E.O. Wilson named it one of the world’s 10 biological hotspots, according to Megan Brousseau, director of the nonprofit organization Inland Empire Waterkeeper. The Riverside, California, group has worked hard to restore these waters and to protect them from pollution.

People don’t know this river is a riparian forest, with great white egrets and blue heron, and home to an endangered species that lives nowhere else in the world, the Santa Ana suckerfish,” she says. “We are absolutely responsible for this species continuing or disappearing, right here in little old California.”

Director, Inland Empire Waterkeeper Brousseau spends a lot of time educating people about their personal part in pollution, and motivates them to recycle and reuse by getting them down to the river, where they can see the effects with their own eyes. By bringing their attention to the intersection between the natural world and their own consumption, she’s better able to encourage recycling and proper disposal.

Overall, what we’re working on is creating ownership and pride,” Brousseau says. “If there is no ownership, then there will be no stewardship. What we really want to do is give this river back to the people. We are cleaning it not only to make it safe and to recreate, but by getting [people] down there, they start to feel like it’s theirs.”

Thanks to her organization’s cleanup efforts, the portion of the river that runs through Riverside—creeks and streams once too full of trash and toxins for anyone to swim or play in them—are now host to kids’ educational summer camps and recreational play that teaches personal responsibility.

Brousseau feels that stewardship, which includes teaching the importance of recycling, should be a part of the curriculum at every grade level. “We would never give somebody a car and not teach them how to pump gas, steer, or change a flat tire. Even in the most remedial job, you give them the tools to do it right. We release our kids with no tools on how to care for this earth. The river is an outdoor education space that is free to 10 schools within walking distance that are Title 1 impoverished,” says Brousseau.

With grant funding, Inland Empire Waterkeeper has been able to sponsor a summer river camp for kids. Under the guise of fun experiments like inspecting the water under microscopes, collecting aquatic insects, and testing water quality, the camp teaches them good habits for life, like recycling and reusing. “All of my life I was told: ‘Don’t drop that chip bag, it will end up in the ocean,’” says Brousseau. But today’s kids are not as aware of the connection between trash and our waterways. “Many kids think I’m full of it, until I take them down for these cleanups and show them the huge pipe dumping right into the river and the Mylar Capri Sun packaging floating by.”

Thanks to grants and a partnership with Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, parts of the Santa Ana River are on their way back to recreational health. At a joint last cleanup at Mill Creek, volunteers pulled more than 4,500 pounds of trash from the urban stream, including such egregiously dumped items as shopping carts, tires, and carpet rolls. The group has since initiated a program that redirects thousands of pounds of housing and landscape development materials by setting up drop-offs for hazardous trash and big, bulky items.

Organizations such as Inland Empire Waterkeeper are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Riversiders are working together everyday to not only address local issues, but to also have a positive impact on the region, nation, and world.

To read the full article, click here.

Students Create Green Storm Drain Filter

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on November 2, 2015.)

The Sustain-A-Drain team recently won a $15,000 grant from the EPA for their reusable storm drain filter. Photo Credit: UCR Today
The Sustain-A-Drain team recently won a $15,000 grant from the EPA for their reusable storm drain filter. Photo Credit: UCR Today

A team of students from the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering was recently awarded a $15,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for a reusable storm drain filter that is less costly and more environmentally friendly than currently available models.

The key innovation is the calibrated indicator and filter system. The filter is made of 100 percent recycled textiles. The indicator is a 3-D printed device made with the same material as the filter and a translucent biodegradable plastic that includes a polymer that changes from a powder to a gel when it is saturated with oil and/or heavy metals and needs to be replaced.

The team received the $15,000 as a phase one winner of EPA’s P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition. Team members are: Franklin Gonzalez, Karim Masarweh, Johny Nguyen, Diego Novoa, Kenneth Orellana and Taljinder Kaur. With the exception of Kaur, who is an MBA student, all the students are seniors and either environmental or chemical engineering majors. Kawai Tam, a lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering, advises them.

Bourns College of Engineering is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial ideas, research, and scholars.

To read the full article, click here.

3-D Printed Devices Help Scientists Trap and Study Tree-Damaging Bugs

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Elizabeth Lee and published in Voice of America on October 22, 2015.)

Beetles not native to Southern California are causing much damage to trees, including those that bear avocados, a lucrative California crop. Scientists at the University of California-Riverside are fighting this problem with the help of 3-D printers.

The invasive beetles are from Southeast Asia, and scientists aren’t sure how they got to California. One guess is that they were in packing materials used in shipping products to California from Asia.

The beetle, technically known as the polyphagous shot hole borer, drills holes into a critical part of the tree, disrupting the flow of water from the roots to the leaves. It also carries a fungus in its mouth that harms the trees. The fungus grows and further clogs the vessels that carry nutrients and water to the tree, eventually starving it to death.

Entomologists have been trying different treatments to kill the beetles and the fungus. But it was time-consuming and difficult to learn whether the treatments worked until a 3-D-printed bug trap was developed to place over the holes in the trees.

If the beetle is still active, that means the pesticide is not working. Scientists say a 3-D-printed trap speeds up the data-collection process and makes the results reliable. The 3-D printer allows researchers to easily tailor their traps to the insects they are studying.

It’s a relatively inexpensive tool that can create new possibilities for researchers to help them get results.

The creation of this 3-D printed trap is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

To read the full article, click here.

UCR Sets Goal To Become Carbon Neutral By 2025

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Mojgan Sherkat and published in UCR Today on October 6, 2015.)

The Cool Campus Challenge is a friendly competition that begins on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and runs through Dec. 10. Photo Credit: UCR Today
The Cool Campus Challenge is a friendly competition that begins on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and runs through Dec. 10. Photo Credit: UCR Today

The University of California, Riverside will participate in the Cool Campus Challenge, a systemwide UC event to get the word out about UC President Janet Napolitano’s carbon neutrality initiative.

“UC campuses are already leading the world in so many ways. Now we’re on our way to becoming the very first university system to wipe out our carbon footprint for good,” said President Napolitano. “It’s a daring goal, and one that we can only meet if we work together, which is why the Challenge is so important.”

Through commitment and dedication, UCR is always improving and making strides in becoming a green machine.  Exemplifying Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, UCR values the cultivation and support of innovation within our community acting as a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

The Cool Campus Challenge is a friendly competition that begins on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and will run through Dec. 10. Between all the UC campuses, the challenge aims to motivate and reward staff, faculty and students for reducing their carbon footprint in support of the UC system reach its Carbon Neutrality goals – as well as create a culture of sustainability across campus.

To read the full article, click here.

Landfill Solar Site Helps Power City

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Alicia Robinson and published in The Press Enterprise on September 11, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Jennifer Iyer, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: Jennifer Iyer, The Press Enterprise

A solar power project on Riverside’s closed Tequesquite landfill is now providing power to the city’s grid. With a 7.5-megawatt installation that’s up and running, solar energy provides more than 4 percent of Riverside’s power supply.

A 20-acre array of about 25,000 solar panels that now stretches across the closed Tequesquite landfill south of the Santa Ana River is one of the largest municipal solar projects in California, said Bill Kelly, vice president of SunPower, the San Jose-based company that built the project.

SunPower built the array as part of a 25-year deal under which Riverside Public Utilities will buy power the project generates. As of Wednesday, Sept. 9, the panels were plugged in and feeding power to the city’s electric grid, Riverside Public Utilities project manager Ron Barry said.

With the growing concern of climate change and pollution from fossil fuels, Riverside is taking steps to reduce their foot print on the environment and promote the quality of life for all through intelligent growth of their city.

To read the complete article, click here.

CBU Receives Grant To Create Hands-On Experience In Sustainable And Health Technologies

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in CBU News & Events on September 1, 2015.)

Stephen Dueck, chemical engineering student, works on calibrating a gas absorption unit used to remove CO2 from a gas stream. Photo Credit: CBU News & Events
Stephen Dueck, chemical engineering student, works on calibrating a gas absorption unit used to remove CO2 from a gas stream. Photo Credit: CBU News & Events

A $250,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation will help fund hands-on experiences in the field of sustainability and health technologies for the chemical engineering department at California Baptist University’s Gordon and Jill Bourns College of Engineering.

Dr. Mark Anklam, chemical engineering chair and professor, said a large portion of the funds have already been invested in purchasing new equipment to create additional chemical engineering labs.

These labs will allow students to work on sustainable technology projects such as CO2removal, reverse osmosis, fuel cells technology and purifying water, he said.

Grants like this help equip CBU’s engineering students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. CBU’s effort to develop programs that meet the needs of employers is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny intelligent growth pillar.

To read the full article, click here.