College Park, MD 20740
Generators installed for backup power during blackouts could help satisfy peak electricity demand; however, many are diesel generators with non-negligible air emissions that may damage air quality and human health. Here, I compare the full (private and social) cost of using diesel generators with and without emission control retrofits for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) to a new natural gas turbine peaking plant. Lower private costs are found for the backup generators because the capital costs are mostly ascribed to reliability. To estimate the social costs from air quality, the changes in ambient concentrations of ozone (O3) and PM2.5 are modeled using the Particulate Matter Comprehensive Air Quality Model with extensions (PMCAMx) chemical transport model. These air quality changes are translated to their equivalent human health effects using concentration-response functions and then into dollars using estimates of “willingness-to-pay” to avoid ill health. As a case study, 1000 MW of backup generation operating for 12 hr/day for 6 days in each of four eastern U.S. cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and New York) are modeled. In all cities, PM2.5 concentrations increased (up to 5 μg/m3) due mainly to primary emissions. Smaller increases and decreases were observed for secondary PM2.5 with more variation between cities. Increases in NOx emissions resulted in significant nitrate formation (up to 1 μg/m3) in Atlanta and Chicago. The NOx emissions also caused O3 decreases in the urban centers and increases in the surrounding areas. For PM2.5, a social cost of approximately $2/kWh is estimated for uncontrolled diesel generators in highly populated cities but is < 10 ⊄/kWh with PM2.5 and NOx controls. On a full cost basis, I find that properly controlled diesel generators are cost-effective for meeting peak electricity demand.
About the Speaker
Elisabeth Gilmore is joining the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland as an assistant professor in August 2011. She holds a dual PhD in Engineering and Public Policy and Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. Her research focuses on quantifying the costs and environmental impacts of energy and transportation technologies and applying these values in decision-making frameworks. Presently, she is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the Climate Change Division at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She received her Bachelor and Master of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto, Canada.
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LOCATION: JGCRI, 5825 University Research Court (off of River Road), Suite 3500, College Park, MD 20740.