As climate change drives more frequent extreme weather events, companies must find ways to adapt and plan for the future. But how can they know how changes in climate will impact their assets and their business strategy? And what can they do to identify and address issues before they affect customers?
The largest state public power entity in the U.S., the New York Power Authority (NYPA), is addressing these challenges by assessing how its ability to generate, transmit and deliver electricity may be affected by climate change. For the first time, NYPA is evaluating its comprehensive climate risk with the help of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. Also in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy, the study will help NYPA plan investments in its infrastructure and strengthen its resilience against all hazards, including major weather events.
Using state-of-the-art climate and infrastructure system modeling techniques, and a powerful supercomputer, Argonne’s interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers will determine the risks a changing climate poses 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. By addressing these issues now, NYPA can protect and position its business so it can continue to reliably produce and deliver power to New Yorkers. NYPA currently produces 25% of New York State’s power and more than 80% of that quarter is clean renewable 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. “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 is investing nearly $1 million in this effort to quantify the potential climate impacts across the region, and then to assess how those changes in climate could impact its infrastructure and investments. The goal is to strengthen resilience against all potential climate hazards, including major weather events.
NYPA operates 16 power generating facilities and maintains more than 1,400 miles of power lines in New York. More than 80 percent of the electricity produced comes from hydropower, so 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.
Argonne is a world leader in creating hyperlocal climate model simulation datasets and has the most detailed climate projections available in the U.S. Argonne’s approach uses historical climate data and some of the world’s best climate models to project future climate in a very localized area — down to the size of a neighborhood — up to 50 years in the future.
While most climate models can only look at changes over a large area — typically 100 square kilometers — Argonne’s models can assess climate risks at the scale needed for businesses to understand how specific buildings and equipment could be damaged by flooding or high winds. This model is so computationally intense, it would take over 3,000 years to run the calculations on a standard laptop. On the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility’s (ALCF) Theta supercomputer, the process takes hours.
For this project, scientists at Argonne will be using this high-resolution climate model with their infrastructure models to provide NYPA with the best possible projections of how weather and climate will change in the future, and the consequences this will have on their infrastructure. Through this combined modeling effort, Argonne scientists and engineers will not only assess the exposure of NYPA’s infrastructure to climate impacts, but also the sensitivity of the equipment and facilities that make up NYPA’s operating systems to these projected changes. By identifying and quantifying these climate impacts to NYPA’s infrastructure today, the team will be able to develop a plan to proactively mitigate climate risks, and better ensure that NYPA is able to reliably deliver power and transmit it across the varied regions of New York in the future.
“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. “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.”
“I am excited about taking national laboratory capabilities and bringing them directly to a utility company,” said Kyle Pfeiffer, the director of the National Preparedness Analytics Center at Argonne.
Pfeiffer emphasized the need for organizations like Argonne to translate the cutting-edge science in climate and infrastructure modeling into what that actually means for industry and people. “Argonne is going to be able to give NYPA information that will affect how they think about their risk management and their infrastructure investment for decades to come.”
This is just one of the ways Argonne is helping companies and other entities in the U.S. prepare for a climate-resilient future. Organizations interested in working with Argonne as part of their climate resilience efforts should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ALCF is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.