Profile of Executive Director of the Sustainable Wine and Food Processing Center, Jill Brigham

Jill Brigham
Jill Brigham

Jill Brigham is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Wine and Food Processing Center at UC Davis, which aims to develop the technologies and processes that will reduce the use of water and energy in the wine, beverage, and food sectors, reduce wastewater and solid wastes, and lower carbon footprints. 

Jill's interest in sustainability began as a child, when her father would bring home satellite images of the earth, views that showed the detrimental effects of man on the environment.  Following a 25 year career as an engineer and manager with NASA, she now leads the effort to make the UC Davis Teaching and Research Winery fully sustainable in water, energy, and zero carbon.  Systems developed here will aid the wine, food, and beverage industries to become more sustainable and make them more resilient to pressures from natural and manmade disruptions.

The Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis has long been a leader in sustainable design.  The department's Teaching and Research Winery became the world's first LEED Platinum winery when it opened in 2010.  Soon after, the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building (JSWB) was constructed to house the systems that will enable the winery to be fully sustainable through capture and storage.  The JWSB will host systems for rainwater capture and filtration, filtration of spent cleaning solutions for reuse, solar-powered hot and cold water for fermentation temperature control, solar panels and battery energy storage, and carbon dioxide capture and sequestration.


Jill recently led projects to capture rainwater and filter it to potable levels via reverse osmosis filtration. In winemaking, four to six volumes of water are currently used to produce one volume of wine.  This water is not used in the product, but to clean the tanks and other equipment.  UC Davis has now installed a rainwater capture capability -- capturing water from the metal rooftops of the Robert Mondavi Institute complex.  This water is temporarily stored in two 45,000 gallon tanks.  These tanks feed a reverse osmosis system made possible through a gift from General Electric Power and Water and WineSecrets.  Any contaminants picked up on the building roofs, such as dust, pollen, insecticides, or vehicle emissions are filtered out and up to 180,000 gallons of pure, potable water is then stored for later use in the winery. Two advantages of rainwater capture are water purity and no aquifier depletion. In addition, because rainwater has no mineral content or silica, reverse osmosis filtration is a low energy process.

The next step is to send the now-potable water to the winery to clean the fermentation tanks.  As water scarcity is a risk faced each season by California's wine industry (and in other wine producing areas of the world) UC Davis is developing efficient cleaning systems that will reuse the cleaning solutions multiple times.  A clean-in-place (CIP) system will be utilized to mix in potassium-based cleaning solutions and control the flow rates and pressures and timing of each cleaning cycle.  UC Davis is currently looking for a CIP supplier.  The spent cleaning solutions will be returned to the JSWB to be filtered via a nano-filtration system which will recover both the water and cleaning solutions for reuse, cleaning additional tanks.  Efficiency goals are to be able to reuse the water and solutions up to ten times, enabling the winery to be fully independent of the campus water system.


Teamed with UC Davis' Green Transportation Lab in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, Jill is managing a project to make the winery energy positive, using 220 KW of photovoltaic panels and 260 KWh of second-life battery storage.  In this project, lithium ion batteries donated by Nissan will be recycled to store energy for times when the sun is not shining, or to add to add to the solar panel contribution during peak electrical loads.  This California Energy Commission-funded project explores the use of batteries that would otherwise be thrown away, and provides a low-cost solution to energy storage while providing a longer useful life for the batteries.


Future projects will aim to reduce the carbon footprint of the winery. Carbon dioxide produced during wine fermentations will be absorbed and sequestered.  Additional non-carbon based energy systems such as direct hydrogen fuel cells are envisioned to power more of the Robert Mondavi Institute buildings as well as the vehicles used in the fields and on the roads.  Hot and cold water for fermentation temperature regulation will be produced using solar energy instead of natural gas for heating and glycol for cooling.

Joining with UC Davis researchers and industry partners, the Sustainable Wine and Food Processing Center aims to be a positive change agent to help improve the sustainability and resiliency of the wine, beverage and food production industries.