Projects

The Renewable Energy Association at UCLA is proud to host student-driven projects.

Educational

As a member of the broader educational community, REA recognizes the importance of informing and connecting society to renewable energy resources. Members of our education projects have the opportunity to shape future generations of scholars, businesses, and researchers.

Technical

REA proudly hosts ambitious and detailed technical projects, achieved by collaborating with various engineering organizations. Whether it's through financing, programming, or researching renewable energy sources, we provide students from all majors the opportunity to gain valuable experience in their fields.

Community

Bringing together the passion of our members and the greater need for carbon neutrality, REA hosts impactful, community-based projects. Advocating for higher standards in existing buildings and solar resources, members of our projects are directly impact the UCLA community.

Project Photos

Biodiesel Team

Project Description

Since its creation two years ago, REA’s Biodiesel Team continues to work on its overarching goal of converting waste oils from UCLA’s dining halls into useable biodiesel. The Team currently consists of four collaborative subgroups with distinct areas of focus.

The experiment group works to test industry-standard acid pretreatment and transesterification processes with waste oil from UCLA dining halls. The pretreatment group uses scientific literature to research new methods of preparing waste oil for biodiesel conversion, such as the use of coconut coir absorbent, and it tests these methods to find optimal rates of conversion. The soap group investigates the repurposing of excess glycerin byproducts to create soaps, using published research articles from reputable scientific journals to develop procedures for future lab experiments. Lastly, the reactor design group is working to construct a prototype bioreactor that will automate the complete conversion of waste oil to biodiesel. By the end of the 2019-20 academic year, our Biodiesel Team is projected to integrate all components of the project into a single bioreactor that will maximize the efficiency with which waste oils from on-campus dining halls are converted into functional biofuels.

Goals

  • Test industry-standard pretreatments and oil-tobiodiesel transesterification processes
  • Test various pretreatment methods from scientific literature against industry standards
  • Apply the results of pretreatment and transesterification research to the completed prototype reactor and begin large-scale biodiesel conversion
  • Collaborate with contractors to build a fullscale reactor unit to produce the team’s first functional biofuels

Accomplishments

  • Secured permanent lab space in Dr. Pilon’s laboratory by working diligently with UCLA faculty and administration
  • Successfully converted small samples of UCLA dining hall waste oils into biodiesel
  • Awarded $9000 in funds to order and build a biodiesel reactor that would perform conversions at a much larger scale

Weekly Meetings

TBA

Renewable Natural Gas Team

Project Description

A merger of two of REA’s technical teams—Biogas and Waste Processing—the Renewable Natural Gas team is a new project created to encourage collaboration between members who are interested in the energy prospects of gas emissions and the economic and environmental impacts of disposing of organic waste. Members of this team work closely with the UCLA Facilities Management to help the university reach its zero waste by 2020 goals and improve its overall waste management systems. The waste processing component of this team works mostly to conduct campus-wide waste audits to educate students on how to properly sort their waste, increase awareness of UCLA’s waste generation, and identify locations where three-stream bins are most needed on campus.

As 2020 approaches, the team is focusing on converting emissions from organic waste into a viable energy source. Specifically, the biogas component of this project is investigating the efficiency of a commercial biogas digester, one which claims to digest any type of organic waste into natural gas that can power a portable stove. The Renewable Natural Gas team will carry its momentum into the coming year as they apply their successes in waste audits and biodigester preliminary research to their new goals in investigating the environmental impact and energy potential of renewable natural gas.

Goals

  • Conduct data analysis on the 2018-2019 campuswide waste audit
  • Create a cumulative endof-year report on the energy potential of UCLA’s organic waste using the aforementioned data analysis
  • Receive administrative approval to begin testing the efficiency of the biogas digester on campus

Accomplishments

  • Successfully conducted UCLA’s first campus-wide waste audit, which involved sorting garbage and collecting data from over 200 bags of landfill waste.
  • Completed 3 more audits after three-stream bins were installed to assess waste diversion rates
  • Collaborated with industry sponsors to secure training for the use of biodigesters
  • Established an on-campus location to house the biodigester, a source of food waste, and a use for left-over organic waste as compost
  • Performed preliminary research to test the digester

Weekly Meetings

TBA

Solar Team/Design Create Solar

Project Description

The Solar Team began three years ago as a project aimed at expanding the area of solar coverage at UCLA. The team was extremely successful at accomplishing this feat. First, it acquired the necessary funding which is allowing the Ackerman Union at UCLA to install enough new rooftop solar panels to reach full solar capacity. And second, it increased outdoor energy access for students and faculty, by helping to install solar umbrellas as part of a solar awareness campaign.

Since then, Solar Team has shifted to a more hands-on technical approach. REA partnered with GRID Alternatives to provide members with training to assist in rooftop solar installations in underserved communities, thus supporting the energy needs of low-income families and promoting the transition to a solar-powered future. This year, the Solar Team also completed the design and construction of a full-scale operational solar generator. They performed data analysis in multiple phases of the machine’s development, and they are continuing to improve its efficiency in the coming year. Given their immense success in building their first solar generator, members of the solar team have decided to establish their own independent organization: Design Create Solar, which plans to continue working in close partnership with REA.

Goals

  • Continued partnership with Grid Alternative, with the goal of completing 5 solar installs in the 2019-20 academic year
  • Conduct a quarterly workshop in partnership with Design, Create, Solar to teach technical skills pertinent to the development of solar energy

Accomplishments

  • Received $220,000 from The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) to expand existing solar installation at UCLA.
  • Partnered with the On-Campus Housing Council to install solar umbrellas for outdoor energy access.
  • Completed solar installation trainings and three trips to service low-income communities.
  • Built a solar generator that successfully powered a partnered organization’s electric vehicle. The generator had a charging rate of 5V/hr, a peak amperage of 10.17A, and a peak voltage of 36.05 V

Weekly Meetings

TBA

Learn & Teach

Project Description

As an organization at one of the country’s top research universities, REA believes that education forms the foundation for students to develop a passion for renewable energy. The Learn & Teach team was therefore created to spread knowledge about renewable energy and sustainability and to get young students excited about and aware of these fields. Previously the Lab School project, Learn & Teach developed and distributed curricula, as well as led weekly energy-focused lectures for young students at UCLA’s Lab School: an innovative school for student’s age 4-12. They presented this curricula to a range of other audiences as well, including the Worldspeak School and LA Family Housing.

In the past, Learn & Teach also partnered with LA Family Housing to reach out to underserved communities to provide access to energy and sustainability-related information. This past year, the Learn & Teach team worked with Sotomayor high school, presenting to the high school’s photovoltaics class on a number of occasions. They presented on the topic of renewable energies in general, and delved into green roofing, geothermal energy, and energy and politics. Additionally, the team attended a number of outreach events, like Engineering Kids Day, Engineering Week, and the annual Exploring Your Universe fair to bring renewable energy curricula to the over 1,000 attending students. This coming year, the team will continue its community involvement and expand its on-campus advocacy by partnering with other student organizations, attending conferences, and hosting more info sessions for UCLA students.

Goals

  • Reach out to new schools to form partnerships with more students, particularly in underserved communities
  • Expand and adapt the renewable energy curriculum for on campus UCLA events that attract students from all fields of study

Accomplishments

  • Presented at the UCLA Lab School, WorldSpeak School, LA Family Housing, and Sotomayor Learning Academy
  • Participated in Explore Your Universe, Engineering Kids Day, and Engineering Week for 3 consecutive years

Weekly Meetings

TBA