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EmPOWER Air Data Challenge

Developing Innovative Analyses Using Emissions and Environmental Monitoring Data

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Type of Challenge: Analytics, visualizations, algorithms
Submission Start: 12/03/2020 09:00 AM ET
Submission End: 02/22/2021 11:59 PM ET

Description

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 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.

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.

Prizes

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.

Rules

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:

  • 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.

Judging Criteria

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
    • Identify 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

How To Enter

Submissions should include:

  • Detailed description of the approach of the project and how CAMD data will be used
  • Explanation of why the project meets challenge objectives
  • A project schedule
  • Description of the work product(s) and outcome(s)
  • Brief bio(s) about applicant(s), including area(s) of expertise
  • Application Form (available online at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-12/application_form.docx)

Submissions should not exceed eight pages (excluding the Application Form).

All materials should be submitted electronically in either PDF or Microsoft Word document format to EmPOWER@epa.gov.

If you have any questions about the application process or the EmPOWER Air Data Challenge in general, email EmPOWER@epa.gov.

Point of Contact

Have feedback or questions about this challenge? Send the challenge manager an email