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Vulnerability Assessment of Southwest Infrastructure to Increased Heat Using a Life Cycle Approach

Description

As average temperatures and occurrences of extreme heat events increase in the Southwest, the water infrastructure that was designed to operate under historical temperature ranges may become increasingly vulnerable to component and operational failures. For each major component along the

As average temperatures and occurrences of extreme heat events increase in the Southwest, the water infrastructure that was designed to operate under historical temperature ranges may become increasingly vulnerable to component and operational failures. For each major component along the life cycle of water in an urban water infrastructural system, potential failure events and their semi-quantitative probabilities of occurrence were estimated from interview responses of water industry professionals. These failure events were used to populate event trees to determine the potential pathways to cascading failures in the system. The probabilities of the cascading failure scenarios under future conditions were then calculated and compared to the probabilities of scenarios under current conditions to assess the increased vulnerability of the system. We find that extreme heat events can increase the vulnerability of water systems significantly and that there are ways for water infrastructure managers to proactively mitigate these vulnerabilities before problems occur.

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Methodology for Estimating Electricity Generation Vulnerability to Climate Change Using a Physically-based Modelling System

Description

In recent years, concerns have grown over the risks posed by climate change on the U.S. electricity grid. The availability of water resources is integral to the production of electric power, and droughts are expected to become more frequent, severe,

In recent years, concerns have grown over the risks posed by climate change on the U.S. electricity grid. The availability of water resources is integral to the production of electric power, and droughts are expected to become more frequent, severe, and longer-lasting over the course of the twenty-first century. The American Southwest, in particular, is expected to experience large deficits in streamflow. Studies on the Colorado River anticipate streamflow declines of 20-45% by 2050. Other climactic shifts—such as higher water and air temperatures—may also adversely affect power generation. As extreme weather becomes more common, better methods are needed to assess the impact of climate change on power generation. This study uses a physically-based modeling system to assess the vulnerability of power infrastructure in the Southwestern United States at a policy-relevant scale.

Thermoelectric power—which satisfies a majority of U.S. electricity demand—is vulnerable to drought. Thermoelectric power represents the backbone of the U.S. power sector, accounting for roughly 91% of generation. Thermoelectric power also accounts for roughly 39% of all water withdrawals in the U.S.—roughly equivalent to the amount of water used for agriculture. Water use in power plants is primarily dictated by the needs of the cooling system. During the power generation process, thermoelectric power plants build up waste heat, which must be discharged in order for the generation process to continue. Traditionally, water is used for this purpose, because it is safe, plentiful, and can absorb a large amount of heat. However, when water availability is constrained, power generation may also be adversely affected. Thermoelectric power plants are particularly susceptible to changes in streamflow and water temperature. These vulnerabilities are exacerbated by environmental regulations, which govern both the amount of water withdrawn, and the temperatures of the water discharged. In 2003, extreme drought and heat impaired the generating capacity of more than 30 European nuclear power plants, which were unable to comply with environmental regulations governing discharge temperatures. Similarly, many large base-load thermoelectric facilities in the Southeastern United States were threatened by a prolonged drought in 2007 and 2008. During this period, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reduced generation at several facilities, and one major facility was shut down entirely. To meet demand, the TVA was forced to purchase electricity from the grid, causing electricity prices to rise.

Although thermoelectric power plants currently produce most of the electric power consumed in the United States, other sources of power are also vulnerable to changes in climate. Renewables are largely dependent on natural resources like rain, wind, and sunlight. As the quantity and distribution of these resources begins to change, renewable generation is also likely to be affected. Hydroelectric dams represent the largest source of renewable energy currently in use throughout the United States. Under drought conditions, when streamflow attenuates and reservoir levels drop, hydroelectric plants are unable to operate at normal capacity. In 2001, severe drought in California and the Pacific Northwest restricted hydroelectric power generation, causing a steep increase in electricity prices. Although blackouts and brownouts were largely avoided, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council estimated a regional economic impact of roughly $2.5 to $6 billion. In addition to hydroelectric power, it has also been theorized that solar energy resources may also be susceptible to predicted increases in surface temperature and atmospheric albedo. One study predicts that solar facilities in the Southwestern U.S. may suffer losses of 2-5%.

The aim of this study is to estimate the extent to which climate change may impact power generation in the Southwestern United States. This analysis will focus on the Western Interconnection, which comprises the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, New Mexico and Texas. First, climactic and hydrologic parameters relevant to power generation are identified for five types of generation technologies. A series of functional relationships are developed such that impacts to power generation can be estimated directly from changes in certain meteorological and hydrological parameters. Next, climate forcings from the CMIP3 multi-model ensemble are used as inputs to a physically-based modeling system (consisting of a hydrological model, an offline routing model, and a one-dimensional stream temperature model). The modeling system is used to estimate changes in climactic and hydrologic parameters relevant to electricity generation for various generation technologies. Climactic and hydrologic parameters are then combined with the functional relationships developed in the first step to estimate impacts to power generation over the twenty-first century.

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Frameworks for Assessing the Vulnerability of U.S. Rail Systems to Extreme Heat and Flooding

Description

Recent climatic trends show more flooding and extreme heat events and in the future transportation infrastructure may be susceptible to more frequent and intense environmental perturbations. Our transportation systems have largely been designed to withstand historical weather events, for example,

Recent climatic trends show more flooding and extreme heat events and in the future transportation infrastructure may be susceptible to more frequent and intense environmental perturbations. Our transportation systems have largely been designed to withstand historical weather events, for example, floods that occur at an intensity that is experienced once every 100 years, and there is evidence that these events are expected become more frequent. There are increasing efforts to better understand the impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure. An abundance of new research is emerging to study various aspects of climate change on transportation systems. Much of this research is focused on roadway networks and reliable automobile travel. We explore how flooding and extreme heat might impact passenger rail systems in the Northeast and Southwest U.S.

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Metropolitan-Scale Building Infrastructure Environmental Life Cycle Assessment: Los Angeles’ Embedded Impacts

Description

Building energy assessment often focuses on the use of electricity and natural gas during the use phase of a structure while ignoring the energy investments necessary to construct the facility. This research develops a methodology for quantifying the “embedded” energy

Building energy assessment often focuses on the use of electricity and natural gas during the use phase of a structure while ignoring the energy investments necessary to construct the facility. This research develops a methodology for quantifying the “embedded” energy and greenhouse gases (GHG) in the building infrastructure of an entire metropolitan region. “Embedded” energy and GHGs refer to the energy necessary to manufacture materials and construct the infrastructure. Using these methods, a case study is developed for Los Angeles County.

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The Water, Energy, & Infrastructure Co-Benefits of Smart Growth Planning in Phoenix

Description

Phoenix is the sixth most populated city in the United States and the 12th largest metropolitan area by population, with about 4.4 million people. As the region continues to grow, the demand for housing and jobs within the metropolitan area

Phoenix is the sixth most populated city in the United States and the 12th largest metropolitan area by population, with about 4.4 million people. As the region continues to grow, the demand for housing and jobs within the metropolitan area is projected to rise under uncertain climate conditions.

Undergraduate and graduate students from Engineering, Sustainability, and Urban Planning in ASU’s Urban Infrastructure Anatomy and Sustainable Development course evaluated the water, energy, and infrastructure changes that result from smart growth in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa Association of Government's Sustainable Transportation and Land Use Integration Study identified a market for 485,000 residential dwelling units in the urban core. Household water and energy use changes, changes in infrastructure needs, and financial and economic savings are assessed along with associated energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The course project has produced data on sustainable development in Phoenix and the findings will be made available through ASU’s Urban Sustainability Lab.

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Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of San Francisco Bay Area Muni Light Rail and Rapid Transit with Wholesale and Renewable Electricity

Description

Results are available here

The environmental life cycle assessment of electric rail public transit modes requires an assessment of electricity generation mixes. The provision of electricity to a region does not usually adhere to geopolitical boundaries. Electricity is

Results are available here

The environmental life cycle assessment of electric rail public transit modes requires an assessment of electricity generation mixes. The provision of electricity to a region does not usually adhere to geopolitical boundaries. Electricity is governed based on lowest cost marginal dispatch and reliability principles. Additionally, there are times when a public transit agency may purchase wholesale electricity from a particular service provider. Such is the case with electric rail modes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

An environmental life cycle assessment of San Francisco Bay Area public transit systems was developed by Chester and Horvath (2009) and includes vehicle manufacturing/maintenance, infrastructure construction/operation/maintenance, energy production, and supply chains, in addition to vehicle propulsion. For electric rail modes, vehicle propulsion was based on an average electricity mix for the region. Since 2009, new electricity contract information and renewable electricity goals have been established. As such, updated life cycle results should be produced.

Using recent wholesale electricity mix and renewable electricity goal data from the transit agencies, updated electricity precombustion, generation, transmission, and distribution environmental impacts of vehicle propulsion are estimated. In summary, SFMTA Muni light rail is currently purchasing 100% hydro electricity from the Hetch Hetchy region of California and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is purchasing 22% natural gas, 9% coal, 2% nuclear, 66% hydro, and 1% other renewables from the Pacific Northwest . Furthermore, the BART system has set a goal of 20% renewables by 2016. Using the GREET1 2012 electricity pathway, a life cycle assessment of wholesale and renewable electricity generation for these systems is calculated.

Chester and Horvath (2009)

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Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment of Los Angeles Metro’s Orange Bus Rapid Transit and Gold Light Rail Transit Lines

Description

Public transit systems are often accepted as energy and environmental improvements to automobile travel, however, few life cycle assessments exist to understand the effects of implementation of transit policy decisions. To better inform decision-makers, this project evaluates the decision to

Public transit systems are often accepted as energy and environmental improvements to automobile travel, however, few life cycle assessments exist to understand the effects of implementation of transit policy decisions. To better inform decision-makers, this project evaluates the decision to construct and operate public transportation systems and the expected energy and environmental benefits over continued automobile use. The public transit systems are selected based on screening criteria. Initial screening included advanced implementation (5 to 10 years so change in ridership could be observed), similar geographic regions to ensure consistency of analysis parameters, common transit agencies or authorities to ensure a consistent management culture, and modes reflecting large infrastructure investments to provide an opportunity for robust life cycle assessment of large impact components. An in-depth screening process including consideration of data availability, project age, energy consumption, infrastructure information, access and egress information, and socio-demographic characteristics was used as the second filter. The results of this selection process led to Los Angeles Metro’s Orange and Gold lines.

In this study, the life cycle assessment framework is used to evaluate energy inputs and emissions of greenhouse gases, particulate matter (10 and 2.5 microns), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide. For the Orange line, Gold line, and competing automobile trip, an analysis system boundary that includes vehicle, infrastructure, and energy production components is specified. Life cycle energy use and emissions inventories are developed for each mode considering direct (vehicle operation), ancillary (non-vehicle operation including vehicle maintenance, infrastructure construction, infrastructure operation, etc.), and supply chain processes and services. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, the inventories are linked to their potential for respiratory impacts and smog formation, and the time it takes to payback in the lifetime of each transit system.

Results show that for energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, the inclusion of life cycle components increases the footprint between 42% and 91% from vehicle propulsion exclusively. Conventional air emissions show much more dramatic increases highlighting the effectiveness of “tailpipe” environmental policy. Within the life cycle, vehicle operation is often small compared to other components. Particulate matter emissions increase between 270% and 5400%. Sulfur dioxide emissions increase by several orders of magnitude for the on road modes due to electricity use throughout the life cycle. NOx emissions increase between 31% and 760% due to supply chain truck and rail transport. VOC emissions increase due to infrastructure material production and placement by 420% and 1500%. CO emissions increase by between 20% and 320%. The dominating contributions from life cycle components show that the decision to build an infrastructure and operate a transportation mode in Los Angeles has impacts far outside of the city and region. Life cycle results are initially compared at each system’s average occupancy and a breakeven analysis is performed to compare the range at which modes are energy and environmentally competitive.

The results show that including a broad suite of energy and environmental indicators produces potential tradeoffs that are critical to decision makers. While the Orange and Gold line require less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile traveled than the automobile, this ordering is not necessarily the case for the conventional air emissions. It is possible that a policy that focuses on one pollutant may increase another, highlighting the need for a broad set of indicators and life cycle thinking when making transportation infrastructure decisions.

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Methodology for the Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment of Los Angeles Metro’s Orange Bus Rapid Transit and Gold Light Rail Transit Lines

Description

The goal of this working paper is to provide the methodological background for several upcoming reports and peer-reviewed journal publications. This manuscript only provides background methodology and does not show or interpret any of the results that are being generated

The goal of this working paper is to provide the methodological background for several upcoming reports and peer-reviewed journal publications. This manuscript only provides background methodology and does not show or interpret any of the results that are being generated by the research team. The methodology is consistent with the transportation LCA approach developed by the author in previous research. The discussion in this working paper provides the detailed background data and steps used by the research team for their assessment of Los Angeles Metro transit lines and a competing automobile trip.

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Created

Date Created
2012-07-30

Life Cycle Assessment of Ecosystem Services for Phoenix’s Building Stock

Description

Better methods are necessary to fully account for anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems and the essential services provided by ecosystems that sustain human life. Current methods for assessing sustainability, such as life cycle assessment (LCA), typically focus on easily quantifiable indicators

Better methods are necessary to fully account for anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems and the essential services provided by ecosystems that sustain human life. Current methods for assessing sustainability, such as life cycle assessment (LCA), typically focus on easily quantifiable indicators such as air emissions with no accounting for the essential ecosystem benefits that support human or industrial processes. For this reason, more comprehensive, transparent, and robust methods are necessary for holistic understanding of urban technosphere and ecosphere systems, including their interfaces. Incorporating ecosystem service indicators into LCA is an important step in spanning this knowledge gap.

For urban systems, many built environment processes have been investigated but need to be expanded with life cycle assessment for understanding ecosphere impacts. To pilot these new methods, a material inventory of the building infrastructure of Phoenix, Arizona can be coupled with LCA to gain perspective on the impacts assessment for built structures in Phoenix. This inventory will identify the origins of materials stocks, and the solid and air emissions waste associated with their raw material extraction, processing, and construction and identify key areas of future research necessary to fully account for ecosystem services in urban sustainability assessments. Based on this preliminary study, the ecosystem service impacts of metropolitan Phoenix stretch far beyond the county boundaries. A life cycle accounting of the Phoenix’s embedded building materials will inform policy and decision makers, assist with community education, and inform the urban sustainability community of consequences.

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