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Urban Air Quality Impacts of Distributed Generation


Distributed Energy Resources (DER) have the potential to meet a significant portion of increased power demands of the future. DER applications can potentially provide benefits in electrical reliability and power quality, in addition to reducing total energy costs in combined cooling, heating and power (CHP) applications. However, the shift from a central generation paradigm to distributed generation results in different emissions characteristics and profiles from both a spatial and temporal perspective. Distributed generation is characterized by many sparsely distributed stationary sources within an urban air-shed compared to central generation where emissions sources are much larger, but typically located outside the air-shed in more remote locations. As a result, high market adoption of fuel-driven (non-renewable) distributed generation (DG) technologies, such as reciprocating engines and microturbines, may influence the air quality within a region. The present paper estimates air quality impacts for a representative distributed generation scenario in the South Coast Air Basin (SoCAB) of California. Simulations are based on the year 2010 with comparison to a base case scenario with no DG emissions. The DG scenarios are developed for a reasonable percentage of power met by DG, representative spatial distribution and temporal operation, and a mix of DG technologies and emissions factors. The resultant emissions inventory for each DG scenario is then provided as input to a three-dimensional air quality model including detailed atmospheric chemistry and transport for simulation of the SoCAB. Preliminary air quality results suggest that there will be an air quality impact, that the impacts will not be uniform throughout the air-shed, and that individual criteria pollutant concentrations may either rise or fall with the introduction of DG.

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