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Clean Air Markets

EmPOWER Air Data Challenge

In the EmPOWER Air Data Challenge, EPA’s Clean Air Markets Division (CAMD) is seeking proposals from academic and research institutions for practical and replicable projects using at least one of CAMD's emissions or environmental monitoring datasets.

Submissions for innovative and creative uses of CAMD data should advance the knowledge, use, and understanding of CAMD data and related information, with priority on the following possible project themes:

  • Analyzing data: Answer timely and relevant research questions using CAMD data
  • Enhancing communications: Design new and innovative ways (e.g. data visualizations) to present CAMD data to the public
  • Developing technology and data mashups: Develop new technologies or analytic methods to integrate CAMD data with other datasets to unlock the broader potential of CAMD data
  • Promoting environmental education: Explore opportunities to use CAMD data in high school or university classrooms
  • Improving data quality: Identify and apply algorithms (e.g., machine learning) to electronically audit CAMD data and enhance data quality

Still looking for more inspiration? Past winners have integrated CAMD data with satellite data and other energy datasets to answer research questions. Others have created lesson plans for university students to create websites summarizing emissions at different power plants using CAMD data. Recent events may also spark ideas. Projects could characterize or evaluate energy equity or quantify the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic response on electricity and air quality.

You may want to view answers to frequent questions about the EmPOWER Air Data Challenge.

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Available CAMD Datasets

Project submissions should use at least one of the following CAMD datasets:

  • CAMD’s Power Sector Emissions Data: CAMD collects the Power Sector Emissions Data from over 4,000 electricity generating units to ensure compliance with emission reduction programs like the Acid Rain Program and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This robust dataset includes information on: hourly emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon dioxide (CO2); operating parameters, like hourly heat input and gross electricity output; and facility attributes, like location, fuel types, monitoring systems, and air pollution controls.
  • Clean Air Status and Trends Network (CASTNET) Data: CAMD, in cooperation with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and many other partners, operates the CASTNET monitoring program to assess long-term trends in air quality and deposition and provide accountability for emission reduction programs. CASTNET measures hourly ozone concentrations to support EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and regional transport evaluations. Weekly gaseous (SO2, HNO3) and aerosol (SO42-, NO3-, NH4+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, Cl-) concentrations are also collected at more than 90 sites.
  • NEW! Long Term Monitoring (LTM) Data: CAMD also partners with states, universities, and other federal agencies to run the Long Term Monitoring (LTM) program, which monitors critical water quality   parameters to track the status of acidified and acid-sensitive lakes and streams in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States. LTM currently consists of a network of 171 lakes and streams that are sampled monthly to annually. Major parameters monitored include: anions (NO3-, SO42-, Cl-), cations (K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+), acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), and pH.

Project submissions may include other datasets not listed here but should include at least one of the three above datasets.

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Benefits of Winning the EmPOWER Air Data Challenge

As a challenge winner, you will receive direct support from EPA CAMD staff experts to answer questions and assist you with CAMD tools and data analysis. In addition, you can expect to:

  • Receive national recognition for your university or organization, students, and project activities by being featured on the EmPOWER Air Data Challenge webpage and offered opportunities to speak at conferences and events
  • Collaborate with EPA and peers to advance power sector-related research and knowledge
  • Participate in special networking events and webinars
  • Improve understanding of and solve timely and relevant environmental problems
  • Gain practical experience working on environmental issues with EPA

While no funding is available for these projects, existing grants may be leveraged by participants, and we suggest that applicants reach out to their communities or other organizations for additional financial support if needed.

If you are selected as a challenge winner, we will send a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for your signature that describes project activities, deliverables, and roles and responsibilities. After signing the MOU, you should:

  • Provide regular status updates to EPA for the duration of the project
  • Prepare a summary report at the completion of the project
  • Present findings to EPA

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Anyone who is affiliated with an accredited college or university, or a research organization (e.g., think tank) is encouraged to apply. Proposed projects may range from one semester to one academic year. Applicants may include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic faculty and researchers
  • Undergraduate/graduate students with faculty leadership
  • Ph.D. candidates
  • Post-doctoral researchers
  • Research fellows

Applicants may work as individuals or teams. If applying as an individual, you must meet one of the criteria listed above for the duration of the project. If applying as a team, then the team leader must meet one of the above criteria for the duration of the project, but other team members need not be limited to the list above. Teams may be composed of individuals from more than one institution.

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Submission Requirements

Submissions should include:
  • Detailed description of the approach of the project and how the selected CAMD dataset(s) will be used
  • Explanation of why the project meets the challenge objective, which is to advance the knowledge, use, and understanding of CAMD data and related information
  • A project schedule
  • Description of the work product(s) and outcome(s)
  • Brief bio(s) about applicant(s), including area(s) of expertise

Submissions should not exceed eight pages.

Applicant must submit the Application Form(1 pg, 38 K) with their submissions.

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December 3, 2020: Application period opens

January 27, 2021 at 3 PM Eastern Time: EmPOWER Application webinar

The webinar will cover:

  • CAMD datasets available for use in EmPOWER project submissions
  • How to apply to the challenge
  • Benefits of winning the challenge
  • Application tips

Sign up here for the webinar.

February 22, 2021 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time: Application period closes

March 24, 2021: Winners notified

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Evaluation Process

EPA will evaluate the technical merit of each submission using the following factors:

  • Clarity and Effectiveness of Proposed Approach (40 points)
    • Demonstrates innovative and effective technical approach(es)
    • Describes how the proposed project supports EmPOWER Air Data Challenge objectives
    • Identifies project schedule and project milestones
  • Project Outcomes (40 points)
    • Describes specific results and/or products that will be developed
    • Describes overall project benefits to stakeholders, other colleges/universities, and/or students
    • Discusses how the project advances research and knowledge
    • Identifies specific project-related metrics
  • Partner Capabilities (20 points)
    • Briefly states why you're interested in your proposed project
    • Describes qualifications of Project Team and/or Project Director
    • Discusses student involvement, if applicable

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2nd EmPOWER Air Data Challenge Winners: 2020-2021 academic year

George Mason University: An accessible education tool presenting 20 years of monthly source impacts from individual coal power plants in the CAMD database

Lucas Henneman

  • Researchers from George Mason, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas-Austin, and ETH Zurich will analyze 20 years of CAMD's Power Sector Emissions Data and CASTNET data to assess the health benefits of the installation of pollution controls and shutdowns at coal-fired electric generating units (EGUs).​
  • Researchers will also create a public-facing data visualization tool to understand these air quality and health benefits.

University of California-Davis: Hourly Average Emissions Factors for the Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID)

Greg Miller

  • Researchers from UC-Davis and Catalyst Cooperative will use CAMD's Power Sector Emissions Data and other resources to create a database of hourly average emissions factors for eGRID and analyze how hourly emissions factors impact greenhouse gas inventory calculations.

1st EmPOWER Air Data Challenge Winners: 2019-2020 academic year

Cornell University: Predicting the Environmental Performance of Power Plants Using Machine Learning

Max Zhang, Ye Jiang, and Jeff Sward

  • Researchers applied machine learning models to CAMD's Power Sector Emissions Data to predict power plant emissions rates and identify anomalies in the data to enhance data quality.

Georgia Institute of Technology: EmPOWERing Classroom Data Engagement

Jennifer Kaiser, Ximin Mi, Lisa Rosenstein, and CEE 430 students

  • Students created data-driven “air pollution story” websites for select facilities using CAMD's Power Sector Emissions Data.
  • Professors created a “teaching toolkit” so future classes and classes at other institutions may replicate the activity.

University of California-Berkeley/University of Oregon: Bringing Satellite Data Down to Earth: Estimating the Health Impacts of the Remarkable Decline in Coal Plant Emissions

Meredith Fowlie and Edward Rubin

  • Researchers worked to improve estimates of the health impacts of pollution from coal-fired power plants by using multiple data sets, including CAMD's Power Sector Emissions Data and satellite data, to causally connect pollution with health outcomes.

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Any reports, conclusions, and recommendations created and submitted by academic and research institutions participating in the EmPOWER Air Data Challenge do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Clean Air Markets Division or the EPA, nor does EPA or any of its employees endorse the providers of such material.

Project submissions may consist of or include copyrightable or other proprietary subject matter (IP). Applicants grant EPA permission to use all project submissions for purposes of evaluation. Title to any project submission intellectual property will remain with the winning applicant(s), which will be memorialized in the MOU. EPA will work with winning applicants interested in submitting analysis for peer-reviewed publication to avoid conflicts with rules regarding prior publication.

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