Michael Moeller is an undergraduate student completing his final year of a double major in Psychology and Environmental Science. Some of his biggest passions include understanding the human mind and behavior as well as protecting the environmental health and integrity of our planet. To effectively tackle anthropogenic environmental issues, he feels it is important to consider not only the science behind the problem, but also the thinking that leads us there. He hopes to continue his studies into graduate school, where he will gain further tools to help protect environmental and human health and develop more sustainable ways of living.
Q: Please briefly describe your research. To summarize very briefly, my research is focused on estimating the emissions from "peaking power plants". These peaking plants are only used during the very hot summer months on High Electric Demand Days (HEDDs), when most residential and commercial buildings turn on their air conditioning units. These peaking plants are often older, dirtier, and less efficient units since they are only intermittently used during these HEDDs. However, power plants that generate less than 25 Megawatts an hour of electricity, which includes most peaking plants, are not required to report their emissions to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Thus, air quality models do not currently account for their contributions to pollution. This concerns us because these unregulated, and often dirtier, plants spew large amounts of particulate matter and ozone-forming pollutants into the air, which negatively affects human health.
Q: How did you come to be involved in this research? My adviser and former professor, Dr. Annmarie Carlton, introduced me to this research area when she hired me to work in her lab as an assistant for her graduate student, Caroline Farkas. I've been involved ever since.
Q: Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future? It is our goal to firstly quantify the emissions from these unregulated power plants, and then to add these emissions into air quality models in our region that currently do not include the effects of these peaking units. Finally, based on the modeling output, we plan to use the Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) to estimate the scope to which unregulated pollutants affect health and health care-related costs. At the end of our project, we hope to demonstrate that although dirty, non-renewable sources of energy are currently cheaper, more energy-efficient sources will be overall more cost-effective. If we develop greener, renewable sources of energy (such as the off shore windmill project), they will essentially pay for themselves through the decrease in pollution-related premature death rates and high health costs.