NYPA taps Argonne, EPRI to study climate risk to power equipment and transmission lines

Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant is one of NYPA's assets. By Busfahrer - taken by me, from Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara County, New York State, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3941077

As climate change drives more frequent extreme weather events, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) has decided not to take a “wait and see” approach as it relates to its equipment. Instead, it is investing nearly $1 million to study what could happen and come up with a resiliency plan.

The organization, which is the largest state public power entity in the U.S., has teamed up with Argonne National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) to study the long-term effects of climate change on NYPA’s physical power generation and transmission assets and system operations.

Argonne will take the lead on the study. Using climate and infrastructure system modeling techniques and a supercomputer, Argonne’s team of scientists and engineers will determine the risks a changing climate pose to NYPA’s infrastructure and investment strategy.

Argonne’s experts will also develop a climate resiliency plan that will inform how NYPA mitigates any potential risks, the lab said in a press release.

NYPA currently produces 25% of New York State’s power and more than 80% of that quarter is hydropower. 

“Large power utilities like NYPA need to anticipate and prepare for the possible impacts of extreme weather events to better address and harden our infrastructure and to better inform our business decisions,” said Adrienne Lotto, vice president, chief risk and resilience officer at NYPA. â€‹“The climate model simulations and data analyses developed by Argonne will provide a better understanding of our critical facilities, assets and equipment and inform our future risk mitigation decisions and capital spending on resiliency efforts.”

NYPA operates 16 power generating facilities and maintains more than 1,400 miles of power lines in New York. Since more than 80 percent of the electricity produced comes from hydropower, NYPA is particularly interested in how changes in climate may impact its ability to generate power throughout the year. Variations in the amount of rain, and when that rain falls, can impact the water flows through its dams, while storms and heavy winds can damage power lines. Climate change could also affect electricity demand, as customers change their patterns of electricity use for heating and air conditioning due to extreme temperatures.

Researchers will identify and quantify the potential impacts of climate change on NYPA’s critical facilities, assets and equipment, and produce a system-wide assessment of location-specific climate risks overlaid onto NYPA’s energy system infrastructure. Argonne’s experts will also develop a climate resiliency plan that will inform how NYPA mitigates any climate-related potential risks. The study’s planned simulations will use three different global climate models and two different greenhouse gas emission scenarios which are designed to capture much of the modeling and planning uncertainties associated with climate change projections.

Study results are expected in the spring.

“Argonne has this unique combination of skill sets and climate data that no one else has,” said Rudyard Sadleir, a technology portfolio manager at Argonne helping connect scientists to industry partners like NYPA who are interested in climate resilience. â€‹“We can take that climate data and help NYPA identify the strengths and weaknesses in the system, then take the next step to actually provide solutions. Not only will we be able to develop scenarios to show NYPA how the climate will impact its infrastructure and business model now and in the future, but we will also be able to pair it with our expertise in the infrastructure of an electric grid and the interdependencies of the system.”

Columbia’s role

In the early stages of this project, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) will provide input on the proposed approach from Argonne National Laboratory for applying climate and energy infrastructure models in the research. In this part of the process, CGEP will contribute its expertise in integrating global energy systems and climate models. CGEP will also contribute expertise in scenario design for energy systems analysis under uncertainty during the modeling planning phase. After the initial analysis is complete, CGEP will serve on the results review panel, providing feedback on the outputs, insights, and any corresponding recommendations.

“Understanding the impacts of the changing climate on our infrastructure is key to ensuring that our energy systems are both reliable and resilient, protecting the health of our communities,” said Jason Bordoff, founding director of CGEP and co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School. “We are delighted to provide input and feedback as a part of this process that will help NYPA to understand key risks and effectively plan for the future.”

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Jennifer Runyon is a Content Director at Clarion Energy, writing, editing and posting content on POWERGRID International and planning conference sessions for DISTRIBUTECH's live and virtual events. She as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH International. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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