Energy

Data-Driven Sustainable EV Infrastructure for Los Angeles

Traffic and vehicle emissions contribute to Los Angeles’ notorious polluted air. The advent of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) presents a viable solution to this problem by reducing carbon emissions and improving local air quality. However, the widespread adoption of EVs requires the development of reliable and efficient charging infrastructure. Moreover, as EV adoption grows, EV charging will introduce new challenges, such as understanding the interplay between the demands on the electrical grid and EV charging behavior. For example, if many drivers try to charge their vehicles simultaneously, the excessive demand may require utility companies to provide additional power using inefficient power plants, creating unintended consequences for sustainability.  
Award Year

Flexible Tandem Photovoltaic-Battery Device for Next Generation Concomitant Energy Harvesting and Storage 

Solar energy is the world's most abundant clean source of energy. The research objective of this project is to develop a tandem device capable of providing both energy generation and storage by combining the functions of a photovoltaic and rechargeable battery. Although both systems individually have been studied in-depth and developed, a tandem device that both generates and stores electricity had yet to be explored. The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge provided a unique opportunity to create an interdisciplinary research and design team to exploit this resource and significantly enhance energy self-sufficiency in Los Angeles and beyond. 
Award Year

Integrated Spectral Leverage Amplification (iSLA) System for Thermal Solar Energy Harvesting

For Los Angeles County to achieve a 100% renewable energy future, developing highly efficient and innovative systems that take advantage of its abundant natural resource—solar energy—is critical. So far, two well-developed technologies, photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), have advanced solar energy conversion in different directions. While PV is cheaper and relatively more efficient, CSP is dispatchable (can be turned on or off by operators) and can be used on-demand. Thus, efforts have been made to develop hybrid solar and thermal systems to increase PV "dispatchability." However, these hybrid systems suffer from the elevated temperature of the PV cell, which decreases overall efficiency. Realizing such a technology gap, the UCLA research team aims to develop a novel technology that is both a highly efficient and dispatchable form of solar energy conversion and storage to help the county achieve its sustainable goals.
Award Year

Wastewater treatment plant of the future utilizing membrane bioreactors

Nearly 60% of Los Angeles County’s water demand is fulfilled by imported water from hundreds of miles away. Securing a sustainable local water supply via recycled wastewater can help save the enormous amounts of energy required to transport water and make the region more resilient to climatic change. Over the years, the use of bioreactors (a type of membrane filtration) combined with wastewater treatment has significantly contributed to ensuring local water supplies.   However, it has also raised concern for biofouling, which is a phenomenon that occurs when microorganisms in the wastewater adhere to the surface of the membranes and restrict water flow. Membrane surfaces must be cleaned periodically by discontinuing the bioreactor operation, which limits the economic advantages of using this approach. Thus, for the use of bioreactors in wastewater treatment to become widely adopted as a fully sustainable and economical technology across Los Angeles County – the membrane biofouling issue must first be resolved. 
Award Year

Agent-Based Modeling of Solar Power Adoption by Los Angeles County Residents

There are a variety of local, state and federal policies in place designed to promote the adoption of photovoltaic or solar power systems in the United States. Examples include the federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, the California Solar Initiative rebates and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Net Metering program. These policies operate by reducing the economic barriers to solar power adoption, while other potential strategies like public outreach focus on educating the general public on the economic and social benefits of solar adoption. like public outreach focus on educating the general public on the economic and social benefits of solar adoption.   Ultimately, the adoption of solar power in residential settings depends on many factors, including finance and homeowners’ perceptions and social influences, as well as regulatory and technological factors. These confounding factors influencing residential solar power adoption rates are far too complex to be fully analyzed using traditional economic models. Thus, a new method is needed to better understand what policies are most effective at increasing solar power adoption in residential areas. 
Award Year

Strategies for 2050 Sustainability in Los Angeles

Los Angeles County is the largest county in the nation with a population of approximately 10 million people. By 2050, the county is projected to have a 15% increase in population, adding 1.5 million more residents. With projected urban population growth alongside the effects of climate change, providing Angelenos with reliable energy, water and an environment that will enhance their health will be a challenge. The UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge (SLA GC) was developed to address these problems and ultimately transition Los Angeles County to 100% renewable energy, 100% locally sourced water, and enhanced ecosystem and human health by 2050. In response to SLA GC’s original goals, The NOW Institute research team undertook a first-round assessment of where the county stands today and what can be done to achieve those targets by 2050.
Award Year

Life cycle and air pollution impacts assessment of transportation fuels from local alternative feedstocks

Wastes and biomass residues from agricultural, dairy, forestry and household activities are sustainable energy resources that are widely available and replenishable. They can be used to derive alternative energy products like electricity, heat and bio-jet fuel. However, the transport and storage of waste are costly and processing it requires substantial energy. In order to consider wastes and biomass residues as potential alternative energy sources, there needs to be a holistic assessment of their potential energy production, net energy gain, and greenhouse gas emission reductions. This project aims to undertake this assessment in the contiguous United States.
Award Year

Linking Shared Transportation Network Companies with Los Angeles Metro

Vehicle emissions and the resulting air pollution are notable public health concerns in the Los Angeles region. The vast majority of trips in the County are by means other than public transit. One barrier to transit ridership is the distance to a rail or bus system. Factors like sidewalk availability, safety and exposure to heat make traveling to transit stops more difficult, and the effects are more pronounced amongst the elderly and those with disabilities. Ride-hailing services or “Transportation Network Companies (TNC)” like Uber and Lyft can improve access to transit by connecting users to rail or bus stations that are beyond walking distance. Realizing the potential of TNCs, this study proposed combining them with zero-emission vehicles to ultimately reduce emissions, encourage public transit use, and support L.A. County’s ongoing initiatives to reach 100% renewable energy and reduce air pollution.
Award Year

Los Angeles Renewable Energy Potential: A Preliminary Assessment

The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge of UCLA has an ambitious goal of helping transition Los Angeles County to 100% renewable energy by 2050 through innovations in science, technology and policy. An important first step is to determine the balance of accessible renewable energy resources and its distribution and storage. To address this data gap, researchers assessed the 2050 renewable energy potential for the Los Angeles region (defined by the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the greater metropolitan area, including the surrounding counties) and presented feasible pathways for achieving the 100% renewable energy goal. This study is a preliminary assessment of the energy portfolio for the entire L.A. region.
Award Year

Automated Vehicles for Sustainable Cities: Field Experiments and Future Outlooks in Los Angeles

In 2018, the transportation sector represented over 28%, the largest share, of the total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Automated vehicles, a rapidly evolving technology, have been modeled to reduce GHG emissions up to 94% and bring accident prevention, smoother traffic and better service to people facing driving difficulties other projected benefits of automated vehicles include reduced infrastructure needs but serving the same demand and potentially more efficient public transportation systems that eliminate transit stops. However, as of 2016 there had not been a field experiment study conducted locally to test and verify the impacts of automated vehicles within Los Angeles County. In this project, researchers ran an automated vehicle prototype on various routes in the county to document the effects on GHG emissions and sustainable transportation.
Award Year