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  Cornell University

MAE Publications and Papers

Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

New article: Microenvironmental Air Quality Impact of a Commercial-scale Biomass Heating System

Article:  Tong, ZM; Yang, B; Hopke, PK; Zhang, KM; “Microenvironmental Air Quality Impact of a Commercial-scale Biomass Heating System”, Environmental Pollution, 220:1112-1120


Abstract: Initiatives to displace petroleum and climate change mitigation have driven a recent increase in space heating with biomass combustion.

However, there is ample evidence that biomass combustion emits significant quantities of health damaging pollutants. We investigated the near-source micro-environmental air quality impact of a biomass-fueled combined heat and power system equipped with an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) in Syracuse, NY. Two rooftop sampling stations with PM2.5 and CO2 analyzers were established in such that one could capture the plume while the other one served as the background for comparison depending on the wind direction. Four sonic anemometers were deployed around the stack to quantify spatially and temporally resolved local wind patterns. Fuel-based emission factors were derived based on near-source measurement. The Comprehensive Turbulent Aerosol Dynamics and Gas Chemistry (CTAG) model was then applied to simulate the spatial variations of primary PM2.5 without ESP. Our analysis shows that the absence of ESP could lead to an almost 7 times increase in near-source primary PM2.5 concentrations with a maximum concentration above 100 mu gm(-)3 at the building rooftop. The above-ground “hotspots” would pose potential health risks to building occupants since particles could penetrate indoors via infiltration, natural ventilation, and fresh air intakes on the rooftop of multiple buildings. Our results demonstrated the importance of emission control for biomass combustion systems in urban area, and the need to take above-ground pollutant “hotspots” into account when permitting distributed generation. The effects of ambient wind speed and stack temperature, the suitability of airport meteorological data on micro-environmental air quality were explored, and the implications on mitigating near-source air pollution were discussed. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Funding Acknowledgement:  New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)

Funding Text:  The authors acknowledge the funding support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The kindly assistance by Michael Kelleher, Brian Boothroyd and Christopher Maroney at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), Peter Sala at Syracuse University and Kui Wang at Clarkson University was instrumental to the study.

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