New approach could reduce impacts of electric power generation

powerBy combining information about power plant operation with real-time air quality predictions, researchers have created a new capability to minimize the human health effects of air pollution resulting from electric power generating facilities.

The Air Pollutant Optimization Model, described in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a new approach for reducing the health effects of ozone and fine particulate pollution. By helping to minimize both health impacts and generating costs, the hybrid model may provide a new tool for utility companies seeking to meet air quality standards, complementing traditional capital-intensive emission controls.

In a test case based on data for the state of Georgia for selected months from 2004 to 2011, the new model suggests that health impacts could have been reduced by $176 million, while increasing generating costs by $84 million – a net savings of approximately $92 million in health costs. For power systems elsewhere, costs and savings would vary by the types of fuel used, the locations of generating facilities and the amount of flexibility available in regional power systems.

The test case evaluated sulfate emissions in Georgia prior to installation of flue gas desulfurization units, which have since reduced emission of that pollutant by as much as 97 percent. Sulfates are a major source of fine particulate matter.

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