How Extreme Weather Alter’s Electricity

Brian Mackley

Iowa State Assistant Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Kristen Cetin is the head of an extensive project that plans to develop a method that provides an assessment on the impact of current and future extreme heat and drought scenarios on electricity consumption and production. The project is a grant given to Cetin by the National Science Foundation that also involves two other Iowa State Professors of Atmospheric Sciences Bill Gallus and Yuyu Zhou as well as researchers from both the University of Michigan and University of Texas-Austin.  

 Starting back in September 2017, this three year grant is currently on its first year.  During which the goal will be to find the most efficient way to represent what historical data says about extreme heat and drought in the areas that are being studied.

 Along with that the rest of this first year will be determining what the future climate scenarios will look like and what the range of variability in temperatures and rain might be.

 “We aren’t looking at an individual home necessarily, although that is part of it. We are looking more at the city level, like the city of Des Moines for example.” Cetin said.

 After determining what these climate scenarios might look like, Cetin will then put these diverse weather scenarios into various models to see what impacts they might have on electricity consumption and production.

 While using the weather data found during the projects first year as input, the second and third years of the project will be to develop two city scale models that will accurately represent the uncertainty and variability of cities in the future.

 Each city model will be used as a stage to predict how the level of energy consumption inside a city grid adjusts depending on the uncertain temperature levels along with the levels of precipitation a city receives.

 The city model will also predict how energy production will increase due to the rising or falling levels in temperatures or precipitation. So in addition to representing a cities energy consumption the model will have to depict all of the different ways in which a city can produce its electricity.

 Measuring the future energy impact of extreme weather situations such as heat and drought is no easy pursuit, Cetin and her colleagues will have to factor in countless other variables such as warmer water temperatures, the changing of wind speeds, impact on solar energy and even the amount of dust.

 With that being said, Cetin has great confidence for the future of the project and hopes that it may be the beginning in helping to find more efficient ways to produce electricity that may help prevent problems in our future cities.

 “Something that we are going to continue to work on is finding what kind of scenarios are better.” Cetin said.

 Along with completing the remainder of the grant, as the study continues Cetin hopes that after the work is done that the data found in the project is prominent enough so that it can be used other places to help others.

 “As you might wish with any project you want to see some kind of impact as the result of it.” Said Cetin. 


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