Heather Rose is an undergraduate research assistant in the Webber Energy Group at UT Austin. Her research with the group involves the design and development of green roofs, rainwater harvesting and hydroponic systems. Heather is also a physics student at UT Austin and will receive her Bachelor’s Degree in Physics in May 2018.

For more information on Heather’s research and current publications, please see below.


Research Projects

Rainwater Harvesting and Water Treatment

Analysis for Required Power and Cistern Size for
Treating Harvested Rainwater for Consumption in a Residence

Using the data from a study conducted by the Water Research Foundation in 2016, we were able to analyze water usage of 762 homes throughout the US. Using Python packages Pandas and Bokeh, we were able to calculate average water consumption per hour and visualize water consumption by event (toilet, shower, faucet, etc.), region in the US, and time of year. With this analysis, we created a power calculator that takes average volume of water and flow rate consumed per hour and converts this into energy required to treat the water (via UV light) and deliver it at a desired pressure to fixtures in a home. We then compared the power requirements for an “On Demand” system with a “Pressurized Store” system that pumps a daily water supply into a large pressurized tank using solar energy.

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ReGrow Project

In August 2017 Heather was awarded a Green Free Grant from the University of Texas at Austin to conduct an experiment regrowing food from scrap hydroponically. Hydroponic systems are known to be extremely water efficient compared to traditional farming methods. And when considering reduced food transportation miles can also be competitive for reduced energy consumption. It is also known that certain foods will sprout new roots in water and will grow into a new plant. In this experiment, Heather is regrowing lettuce from the stub of a lettuce head in a hydroponics raft system while measuring the water and power consumption compared to yield of crop. Water and energy efficiency are key in this experiment. Great care and consideration was taken to design a raft system that recirculates to reuse water as much as possible.

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Green Roofs

Solar Water Energy And Thermal Lab (S.W.E.A.T. Lab)
The Webber Energy Group S.W.E.A.T. Lab is a lab  stationed on the roof of the ETC (the Mechanical Engineering building on UT campus) that provides local weather data to the community. The SWEATLab also contains a solar powered drip irrigation system that waters a rooftop garden using harvested rainwater.

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Energy and Power Efficiency and Cost Comparison of Battery vs. End-use Water Storage for Consumption as Means of Solar PV Energy Storage

A reliable potable water system is a critical component of modern living. For homeowners with off-grid houses, providing reliable potable water also requires a reliable electricity supply to run the pump(s) and treatment system. Since water consumption occurs throughout the day and night, a solar-powered off-grid system must contain some sort of energy storage to power the water system when the sun is not shining. The goal of this analysis is to evaluate the trade-offs of battery storage with the ‘end-use storage’ of pressurized treated water.

For this project, we built a simplified powered demand model of an off-grid residential rainwater harvesting system that featured onsite treatment and pressurized water delivery to the home. Using data from the 2016 Water Research Foundation study of Residential End Uses of Water, we created a program to generate hourly water usage profiles of typical household water use. The profiles serve as the templates for sizing the water delivery system based on how much treated water needs to be delivered during each hour for an average single family home. We then compared the power and energy requirements for treating and pressurizing the water using an in-line UV light treatment and on-demand pump, versus that of treating 24 hours’ worth of water using a solar powered UV light treatment and large pressurized tank for next day consumption. With our analysis, we will assess which system is more energy efficient on a round-trip basis, and the impact on power demand of treating and delivering water on-demand compared to that of stored pressurized water. This analysis will include an interactive online tool for others to compare system power and energy requirements based on their own water demand profile and other inputs.


Development of a Rooftop Collaborative Experimental Space through Experiential Learning Projects

The Solar, Water, Energy, and Thermal Laboratory (SWEAT Lab) is a rooftop experimental space at the University of Texas at Austin built by graduate and undergraduate students in the Cockrell School of Engineering. The project was funded by the Texas State Energy Conservation Office and the University’s Green Fee Grant, a competitive grant program funded by UT Austin tuition fees to support sustainability-related projects and initiatives on campus. The SWEAT Lab is an on-going experiential learning facility that enables engineering education by deploying energy and water-related projects.

This project presented many opportunities for students to learn first hand about unique engineering challenges. The lab is located a top the 9 story Engineering Teaching Center (ETC) building, so students had to design and build systems with constraints such as weight limitations, structural concerns, water containment and management, and high wind speed tolerance. Students also worked with building facilities and management to get portions of the lab constructed, as well as incorporating the building’s power and internet connection for instruments.

With the Bird’s eye view of UT Austin campus, this unique laboratory offers a new perspective and dimension to applied student research projects at UT Austin.



University of Texas at Austin Green Fee Grant
Granted August 2017 for ReGrow Project.

Kent and Linda McCormack Scholarship in Physics
Granted December 2017