By Sam Geldin- Energy
As our team enters its final project stages, we now face the daunting but exciting task of summarizing our results and making recommendations for our two stakeholders, UCLA Facilities Management and ASUCLA (the Associated Students board that influences campus activities, like the sale of goods in the student store).
After distributing solar chargers at the Ecochella Fair and calling participants nearly two weeks later to ask about their product satisfaction, we received complaints that the devices only charged 50% on solar energy. When we contacted the company that sold us the devices, they informed us that the battery required a traditional outlet to fully charge, a fact not clear to consumers in their product description. Since we felt we could still identify a reasonably priced device that could charge 100% using solar energy, our team decided to research a better quality device to pitch to ASUCLA at their public board meeting and use our positive participant survey results (as planned) to demonstrate popular student demand. For example, 96% of survey participants at the Earth Day Fair stated they would purchase a solar charger and a majority would spend more than $10 on a charger. Several participants in our trial even reported that students asked them about their charger, fulfilling our goal of increasing clean energy awareness.
Meanwhile, our team is halfway through drafting a proposal to UCLA Facilities to improve their lighting operations in the Physics and Astronomy Building. One (out of the original five lighting sensors from SoCal Edison) and two (out of three) UCLA Facilities’ occupancy sensors collected meaningful occupancy and light patterns. Now, we’re working with our stakeholder, Sayros Yadgar, to calculate the payback period of installing automatic instead of manual light switches in the Physics and Astronomy Building. Since our data has many limitations and since the building’s lighting configuration remains relatively expensive to change (according to one of UCLA’s electrical supervisors), our data probably won’t support installing automatic light switches anytime soon. However, our data does show considerable light use during unoccupied times, making our work valuable in quantitatively identifying a problem that still needs some kind of solution.
As we practice our solar power pitch for ASUCLA and draft our Facilities proposal, we’re definitely energized by the fact that after overcoming so many obstacles our data will provide answers to inform decision makers!