Friday, May 3, 2013
IDEASS Feature Project: Making the Best of an Oil Grease Mess
Written by Hanna Haas, IDEASS Outreach Coordinator
Greasy, gross, and... green? Students in the Impact Designs: Engineering and Sustainability through Student Service (IDEASS) program are working with the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf to turn leftover restaurant grease, otherwise a waste product, into fuel, an asset that will contribute to making the Santa Cruz Wharf even greener.
Together they are contributing to a larger effort to help Santa Cruz demonstrate what can be done to live more sustainably by concentrating on something that most people either assume to be a waste product or simply ignore: the yellow grease leftover from restaurant fryers.
Collectively, the restaurants leasing space on the Santa Cruz Wharf produce a significant amount of yellow grease, and the team is looking at how to transform what is now treated as a waste product into an asset. Specifically they are looking at the potential to process yellow grease on site. The yellow grease can be transformed into a fuel stock that can be combusted to run a generator, which produces electricity. Additionally, as Kedar explained, they are also looking at the potential for incarceration of organic solid waste, which would produce heat to run a steam turbine generator and produce electricity.
The students have also been looking at what infrastructure would be necessary to produce such an alternative waste disposal system and the net associated costs. To do this the team has been collecting data to prepare an economic assessment of what it is currently costing the wharf to remove the grease along with other solids in the waste stream. They will present these figures to stakeholders at the Master Plan meeting before making recommendations to invest in proposed solutions.
IDEASS is a 3-quarter service-learning course offered through Baskin Engineering in cooperation with the Environmental Studies Department but is open to qualified students from any major. This year, IDEASS successfully launched 11 ambitious sustainable design projects – most of which directly involve off-campus organizations and professionals working to make innovative advances in creating what some have recognized as the emerging “green economy.”