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Step-by-Step

In this Section

Part 1—Energy Efficiency Activity – an active group demonstration of efficiency and “losses.”

Part 2— Electricity system lifecycle posters – students use pre-made paper icons to create posters that show the lifecycle stages involved with making electricity from various energy resources.

Part 3— Power Profiler – students use an EPA tool to explore regional differences in electricity generation mixes and the associated CO2 emissions. MS students can enter their data into a table they create on paper if they do not have adequate MS Excel skills. College students (perhaps some HS students too) can do a follow up homework assignment to calculate their own values for state or regional electricity emission factors based on the specific electricity mix.

Part 1—Energy Efficiency Activity

  1. Gather materials
    1. two brown paper bags for each group
    2. Styrofoam peanuts – enough to fill 1 bag for each group ~half full
    3. stop watch
    4. small scale (e.g., kitchen scale)
    5. Open and distribute “Activity – Energy Efficiency” file, (print or use electronic) and distribute to each student.
    6. Follow instructions for completing the activity, calculating efficiency and responding to discussion questions.
    7. Students submit the completed worksheet.
    8. Gather materials – 24” x 36” posterboard, scissors, markers, gluestick for each group
    9. Open “LCA cutouts.ppt” file.  Print one page of each of the electricity systems – each group can do one system.  Print several copies of the general systems (transportation, transportation fuel, emissions, etc.)  Note that an extensive LCA poster could include petroleum fuel for transportation and all of the petroleum extraction and processing steps.  Some extra copies of the petroleum page may be warranted.
    10. Students or the teacher can cut the printed pages into their individual parts.
    11. Open file “Activity – Electricity Generation Lifecycle Assessment” and distribute to students to guide them and as a place for them to answer discussion questions.
    12. Make posters and complete discussion questions.
    13. Open the Power profiler student worksheet and distribute to students electronically or on paper.
    14. Create a spreadsheet to record the information from the Power Profiler.  Each row will be a different location.  Include columns for zipcode, city name, electricity mix (% coal, % oil, % natural gas, %nuclear, %hydro and % non-hydro renewables), emissions factor for CO2 (lb/MWh), and personal CO2 emissions.
    15. Open the Power Profiler web site and review the description of this tool.
    16. Enter your zipcode, click “next. If there is a choice of electricity distributors in your region, click on the one used in your town.
    17. The resulting graphical display will show you the electricity mix and emissions characteristics for your home relative to the national average. Record these values in your spreadsheet.
    18. At the bottom of the page, under “3. What can I do to make a difference?”, click on “My Emissions”  Enter data for your own family’s electricity consumption or chose option 3, which uses an average value of 900 kWh/mo electricity.  A new result window will open that estimates your annual emissions of carbon dioxide.  Record this value in your spreadsheet.
    19. Repeat steps 4-6 for at least 5 other locations throughout the United States.  Chose locations that are far apart.  Record results in your spreadsheet. If there is a particular place you want to investigate but do not know the zipcode, use the U.S. Postal Service’s web tool: http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/citytown.jsp
    20. Create a second column in your spreadsheet for the CO2 emission factors in units of kg CO2/MWh. 
      lb X 0.454 kg/lb = kg
    21. Create graphs for electricity mix (bar, stacked bar or pie charts), and a bar graph for regional CO2 emission factors.

Part 2—Electric System Lifecycle Posters

  1. Gather materials – 24” x 36” posterboard, scissors, markers, gluestick for each group
  2. Open “LCA cutouts.ppt” file.  Print one page of each of the electricity systems – each group can do one system.  Print several copies of the general systems (transportation, transportation fuel, emissions, etc.)  Note that an extensive LCA poster could include petroleum fuel for transportation and all of the petroleum extraction and processing steps.  Some extra copies of the petroleum page may be warranted.
  3. Students or the teacher can cut the printed pages into their individual parts.
  4. Open file “Activity – Electricity Generation Lifecycle Assessment” and distribute to students to guide them and as a place for them to answer discussion questions.
  5. Make posters and complete discussion questions.

Part 3—Power Profiler

  1. Open the Power profiler student worksheet and distribute to students electronically or on paper.
  2. Create a spreadsheet to record the information from the Power Profiler.  Each row will be a different location.  Include columns for zipcode, city name, electricity mix (% coal, % oil, % natural gas, %nuclear, %hydro and % non-hydro renewables), emissions factor for CO2 (lb/MWh), and personal CO2 emissions.
  3. Open the Power Profiler web site and review the description of this tool.
  4. Enter your zipcode, click “next. If there is a choice of electricity distributors in your region, click on the one used in your town.
  5. The resulting graphical display will show you the electricity mix and emissions characteristics for your home relative to the national average. Record these values in your spreadsheet.
  6. At the bottom of the page, under “3. What can I do to make a difference?”, click on “My Emissions”  Enter data for your own family’s electricity consumption or chose option 3, which uses an average value of 900 kWh/mo electricity.  A new result window will open that estimates your annual emissions of carbon dioxide.  Record this value in your spreadsheet.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 for at least 5 other locations throughout the United States.  Chose locations that are far apart.  Record results in your spreadsheet. If there is a particular place you want to investigate but do not know the zipcode, use the U.S. Postal Service’s web tool: http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/citytown.jsp
  8. Create a second column in your spreadsheet for the CO2 emission factors in units of kg CO2/MWh. 
    lb X 0.454 kg/lb = kg
  9. Create graphs for electricity mix (bar, stacked bar or pie charts), and a bar graph for regional CO2 emission factors.

10.  Complete answers in the student worksheet.

11.  (optional) – Complete Emission factors homework assignment

Figure 7