Spatially resolved life cycle models for the environmental footprint of electricity generation
Electricity generation has significant environmental impacts, including on regional air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and water availability. Modeling the overall environmental impact of electricity generation requires linked simulations of power generation, air pollution physics and chemistry, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use. Tools for performing these analyses in an integrated manner are just beginning to emerge. This work expands on the development of linked models for electricity generation, air quality, and water use that have provided single-day snapshots of these environmental impacts. The original model used a non-linear optimization model for power generation, a regional photochemical model for air quality impacts, and self-contained modules for greenhouse gas emissions and water usage at power plants in Texas. The new model includes life cycle scenarios for the power sector (including changes in both the fuel production and electricity generation stages) and expands the temporal scale of the modeling framework to include impacts on monthly, seasonal, and annual time scales instead of on single days. In addition, the air quality framework has been expanded to include atmospheric particulate matter as an air quality impact. This modeling framework will be used to assess the air quality impacts of new natural gas developments in the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale regions in Texas, the consumptive water impact of new natural gas development in Texas, the impact of seasonal versus ozone forecast-based pricing for power plant NOx emissions in the state of Texas, and the potential cost and air quality impacts of drought-based operation of the power grid in Texas.