seth blumsack

assistant professor
department of energy and mineral engineering

the pennsylvania state university
university park, penna. 16802
office: hosler building 124
phone: (814) 863-7597
email: sethb [at] psu [dot] edu

current cv [.pdf]

home page at the earth and mineral sciences energy institute

blumsack home page

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blumsack research

research areas:
please click on any of the above links to jump to a description with more information about collaborations, projects and papers or reports.


 


electric power systems and the smart grid

society is facing unprecedented challenges in meeting rising demands for affordable, reliable and high-quality energy consistent with social environmental goals.  engineering future energy conversion and delivery systems will require a new way of thinking about networks and infrastructures, in addition to new energy sources.  dr. blumsack's work in this area focuses on the integration of emerging energy technologies into existing systems, and how the "smart grid" can help enable both engineering and economic transformations.  with colleagues from engineering, economics, computer science, architecture and environmental science, he is working on the integration of utility-scale wind and solar systems into electric power grids; modeling the impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles; small-scale distributed electricity and "micro-grids;" and cyber-security and risk analysis for the "smart grid."  dr. blumsack is also developing online and resident courses with funding from the u.s. department of energy to support workforce training and development for the smart grid and the wind energy industry.

representative papers:

  • "cost and emissions implications of coupling wind and solar power," with kelsey richardson, smart grids and renewable energy, in press
  • "transmission switching in the ieee rts-96 test system," with clayton barrows, ieee transactions on power systems, 27:2, 2012.
  • "comparing the topological and electrical structure of the north americal power grid," with eduardo cotilla sanchez, paul hines and clayton barrows, ieee systems journal, in press, 2012.
  • "ready or not, here comes the smart grid," with alisha fernandez, energy 37:1, 2012.
  • "variance-minimizing site selection for interconnected wind farms," with paras choudhary and george young, 2010. (presented at the 2010 technology, management and policy conference, cambridge u.k.)
  • "spatial variations of emissions impacts due to renewable energy siting decisions in the western u.s. under high-renewable penetration scenarios," with jianhua xu, energy policy 39:11, 2011.
  • "do topological models provide good information about electricity infrastructure vulnerability?" with paul hines and eduardo cotilla sanchez, chaos: an interdisciplinary journal of nonlinear science 20:3, 2010.
  • "how free markets rocked the grid,"ieee spectrum 47:12, 2010.
  • "partitioning methods for electrical networks," with paul hines, mahendra patel, clayton barrows and eduardo cotilla sanchez, 2009 [manuscript in review; link to 2009 presentation at los alamos national lab]
  • "matching photovoltaic orientation to energy loads," with jeffrey r.s. brownson and jeff rayl, proceedings of the 43rd hawaii international conference on system sciences, 2010.
  • "analyzing pjm's economic demand response program," with rahul walawalkar, jay apt and stephen fernands, energy policy, 2008.
  • "long-run electric system investments to support low-emissions plug-in hybrid electric vehicles," with costa samaras and paul hines proceedings of the ieee power engineering society, 2008.

 

energy and environmental policy

while there is broad agreement that energy and electricity supplies should minimize harmful environmental impacts, in addition to being secure and affordable, there is less agreement on how these goals should be achieved.  policy opinions are particularly divergent in the areas of climate change and energy efficiency.  dr. blumsack's policy-relevant research uses systems-level analysis to understand the impacts and effectiveness of public and private decisions on the performance of energy systems and environmental quality.

representative papers:

  • "distributional impacts of state-level energy efficiency policies in regional electricity markets," with mostafa sahraei-ardakani and andrew kleit, energy policy, 2012, in press.
  • "evaluating wind-following and ecosystem services for hydroelectric dams," with alisha fernandez and pat reed, journal of regulatory economics 41:1, 2012.
  • "spatial variations of emissions impacts due to renewable energy siting decisions in the western u.s. under high-renewable penetration scenarios," with jianhua xu, energy policy 39:11, 2011.
  • "variance-minimizing site selection for interconnected wind farms," with paras choudhary and george young, 2010. (presented at the 2010 technology, management and policy conference, cambridge u.k.)
  • "potential and strategies for implementation of renewable energy in the planned world," with lisa iulo, jeffrey r.s. brownson and allen kimel, forthcoming (2010), interdisciplinary themes journal
  • "how free markets rocked the grid,"ieee spectrum 47:12, 2010.
  • "climate impact assessment for pennsylvania," with james shortle, dave abler, rob crane, karen fisher-vanden, marc mcdill, ray najjar, richard ready and thorsten wagener, report for the pennsylvania department of environmental protection, 2009. [.pdf]
  • "life-cycle greenhouse gas inventory of electricity production in pennsylvania," with paulina jaramillo, w.michael griffin and h. scott matthews, report for the pennsylvania department of environmental protection, 2009.
  • "economic and environmental performance of ground-source heat pumps in central pennsylvania," with jeffrey brownson and lucas witmer, proceedings of the 41st hawaii international conference on system sciences, 2009 [.pdf]
  • "prices and costs for electric utilities under regulation and restructuring," with lester b. lave and jay apt, 2008 [link to working paper]
  • "analyzing pjm's economic demand response program," with rahul walawalkar, jay apt and stephen fernands, energy policy, 2008 [link to web version].
  • "the short run economic and environmental effects of a carbon tax on u.s. electric generation," with adam newcomer, jay apt. lester lave and m. granger morgan, environmental science and technology, 2008, 42:9, pp. 3139-3144 [link to web version and es&t press release].
  • "long-run electric system investments to support low-emissions plug-in hybrid electric vehicles," with costa samaras and paul hines proceedings of the ieee power engineering society, 2008.

structure, performance and vulnerability of infrastructure networks

reliable energy and electricity supplies are critical to economic and social welfare in modern societies.  energy, transportation and water infrastructure networks in many industrialized nations, however, are aging and increasingly stressed.  recent blackouts have demonstrated the vulnerability of the electric grid to failures in individual components.  working with physicists, computer scientists and engineers, dr. blumsack is researching new ways to identify portions of critical infrastructures vulnerable to failures or attacks; drawing links between the structure of a network and the efficiency of its performance; and designing operational and investment strategies to increase the robustness of energy and transportation infrastructures.  dr. blumsack is also a member of the organizing committee for the penn state network science initiative.

representative papers:

  • "transmission switching in the ieee rts-96 test system," with clayton barrows, ieee transactions on power systems, 27:2, 2012.
  • "comparing the topological and electrical structure of the north americal power grid," with eduardo cotilla sanchez, paul hines and clayton barrows, ieee systems journal, in press, 2012.
  • "two methods of vulnerability assessment for electric power networks," with paul hines and eduardo cotilla sanchez, 2011 (forthcoming), proceedings of the 44th hawaii international conference on system sciences
  • "do topological models provide good information about electricity infrastructure vulnerability?" with paul hines and eduardo cotilla sanchez, chaos: an interdisciplinary journal of nonlinear science 20:3, 2010.
  • "the topological and electrical structure of power networks," with paul hines, eduardo cotilla sanchez and clayton barrows, 2010, proceedings of the 43rd hawaii international conference on system sciences
  • "partitioning methods for electrical networks," with paul hines, mahendra patel, clayton barrows and eduardo cotilla sanchez, 2009 [manuscript in review; link to 2009 presentation at los alamos national lab]
  • "a centrality measure for electrical networks," with paul hines, proceedings of the 41st hawaii international conference on system sciences, january 2008. [pdf]
  • "a quantitative analysis of the relationship between congestion and reliability in electric power networks," with lester lave and marija ilic, energy journal october 2007. [working paper pdf]
  • "topological elements of transmission pricing and planning," working paper, with lester lave and marija ilic [.pdf]
  • "decomposing congestion and reliability," working paper, with marija ilic and lester lave [.pdf]
  • "network decomposition via graph theory and watts-strogatz clustering," working paper, [.pdf]
  • "the braess paradox in electric power networks," working paper, with marija ilic [.pdf]
  • "network topologies and transmission investment under electric-industry restructuring," doctoral dissertation, may 2006 [.pdf]

integrated design for the built environment

buildings represent one of the largest sources of electricity consumption.  the "green building" movement has increased awareness of the energy and environmental implications of design choices for the built environment, but the green building field lacks a framework for assessing tradeoffs and complementarities between structural, materials and aesthetic choices.  dr. blumsack is working with an interdisciplinary team of engineers, material scientists and architects on multi-objective integrated design approaches to designing built spaces and environments for communities.

representative papers:

  • "potential and strategies for implementation of renewable energy in the planned world," with lisa iulo, jeffrey r.s. brownson and allen kimel,interdisciplinary themes journal, 2:1, 2010
  • "economies of scale and scope in residential insulation and energy supply design choices," with jeffrey r.s. brownson and lucas witmer, 2010 (manuscript in progress)
  • "living with sustainable energy in a global society," with lisa iulo, jeffrey r.s. brownson and allen kimel, invited presentation at the greenbuild conference and exposition, phoenix az, 2010.
  • "matching photovoltaic orientation to energy loads," with jeffrey r.s. brownson and jeff rayl, proceedings of the 43rd hawaii international conference on system sciences, 2010.
  • "economic and regulatory aspects of micro-grids," with alisha fernandez and amy glasmeier, report to the ford foundation, 2009.
  • "economic and environmental performance of ground-source heat pumps in central pennsylvania," with jeffrey brownson and lucas witmer, proceedings of the 41st hawaii international conference on system sciences, 2009 [.pdf]
regulation and restructuring in the electric power sector

dr. blumsack is an internationally-recognized expert on the design of deregulated electricity markets.  his work on measuring market power and evaluating the competitiveness of electricity markets has been cited numerous times by other academic researchers as well as in regulatory decision-making.  he has testified before the federal energy regulatory commission and state legislatures on electricity market design in new england, california the mid-atlantic and midwest (pjm territory).  dr. blumsack's 2007 article from the energy law journal on market design was cited in the u.s. supreme court's 2008 decision in morgan stanley v. snohomish pud.  dr. blumsack is continuing his research in electricity markets and the electricity industry through the penn state electricity markets initiative.

representative publications:

  • "distributional impacts of state-level energy efficiency policies in regional electricity markets," with mostafa sahraei-ardakani and andrew kleit, energy policy, 2012, in press.
  • "the influence of deregulated electricity markets on hydropower generation and downstream flow regime," with jordan kern, gregory characklis, martin doyle and richard wishunt, journal of water resources planning and management, 2010, in press.
  • "how free markets rocked the grid,"ieee spectrum 47:12, 2010.
  • "supply curve estimation for congested electric transmission grids," with mostafa sahraei-ardakani and andrew kleit, proceedings of the ieee power and energy society, 2010, minneapolis mn.
  • "assessment and mitigation of rising electricity prices in rural pennsylvania," with andrew kleit, zhen lei, mostafa sahraei-ardakani, lora hutelmyer and stephon smith, report for the center for rural pennsylvania, 2010 (forthcoming).
  • "retail competition in electricity," with dmitri perekhodtsev, in the international handbook of energy economics, l. hunt and j. evans, eds., edward elgar publishing, london, 2009.
  • "international wholesale markets for electricity," with dmitri perekhodtsev, in the international handbook of energy economics, l. hunt and j. evans, eds., edward elgar publishing, london, 2009.
  • "electric rate design and emissions reductions," proceedings of the ieee power and energy society, 2009, calgary ab.
  • "the real problem with merchant transmission," with lester lave and marija ilic, electricity journal, 21:2 (2008), pp. 9-19.
  • "prices and costs for electric utilities under regulation and restructuring," with lester b. lave and jay apt [link to 2008 working paper]
  • "deregulation/restructuring part i: re-regulation will not fix the problems," with lester lave and jay apt, electricity journal 20:8, pp 9 - 22. [pdf]
  • "deregulation/restructuring part ii: where do we go from here," with lester lave and jay apt, electricity journal 20:9, pp 10 - 23. [pdf]
  • "network topologies and transmission investment under electric-industry restructuring," doctoral dissertation, may 2006 [.pdf]
  • "the efficiency of point-to-point financial transmission rights is limited by the network topology," working paper, jan 2006. [.pdf]
  • "a cautionary tale: u.s. electricity sector reform," with lester lave and jay apt, economic and political weekly 40:50, november 2005.
  • "rethinking electricity deregulation," with lester lave and jay apt, electricity journal november 2004. 
  • "mitigating pivotal suppliers in deregulated electricity markets," with lester lave, papers and proceedings of the 24th north american conference, international association for energy economics, july 2004. [.pdf]
  • "market power in deregulated wholesale electricity markets: issues in measurement and the cost of mitigation," with lester lave and dmitri perekhodtsev, electricity journal, november 2002.
  • "a theory of pivotal oligopoly for electricity markets," with dmitri perekhodtsev and lester lave, working paper, 2002.
  • "managing peak demand in public power systems," with chantal brandon and dmitri perekhodtsev, american public power association deed technical award paper, 2001.
  • "how to make power markets competitive," with sam van vactor, in electricity pricing in transition, 2001, ahmad faruqui and kelly eakin, eds., kluwer academic publishing.

life-cycle environmental impact analysis and environmental management

life-cycle assessment (lca) takes a cradle-to-grave approach of evaluating the environmental impacts of products and processes.  public and private-sector interest in lca is growing as industries and individuals recognize the risks associated with life-cycle environmental impacts and strive to better-understand and reduce these impacts.  These impacts are often quantified in "carbon footprints" or sustainability indices.  dr. blumsack has worked on evaluating the life-cycle impacts of electricity production, and is working on methods to inform life-cycle analyses of energy and electricity consumption.

representative publications:

  • "environmental controls of cadmium desorption during co2 leakage,"environmental science and technology 46, 2012.
  • "the impacts of mid-atlantic shale gas development on the economics and life-cycle environmental impacts of combined heat and power applications," with clayton barrows, 2010
  • "life-cycle greenhouse gas inventory of electricity production in pennsylvania," with paulina jaramillo, w.michael griffin and h. scott matthews, report for the pennsylvania department of environmental protection, 2009.
  • "long-run electric system investments to support low-emissions plug-in hybrid electric vehicles," with costa samaras and paul hines proceedings of the ieee power engineering society, 2008.

unconventional natural gas

natural gas is an appealing energy alternative to coal and petroleum for a variety of applications.  technological advances have made possible the extraction of massive amounts of natural gas from tight shale deposits (such as the marcellus in the appalachian region) at a reasonable cost.  dr. blumsack is working with industry as well as interdisciplinary teams of engineers and social scientists studying the economic impacts of shale gas development; environmental quality issues associated with hydrofracturing; and the public's perception of the risks associated with unconventional gas development. for more information on the marcellus shale in particular, please see the penn state marcellus initiative for outreach and research.

representative publications:
  • "the impacts of mid-atlantic shale gas development on the economics and life-cycle environmental impacts of combined heat and power applications," with clayton barrows, 2010 (manuscript in progress).
  • "the economic impacts of the pennsylvania marcellus shale natural gas play: an update," with tim considine and robert watson, report for the marcellus shale coalition, 2010 [.pdf]

environmental risk and decision-making

dr. blumsack is working with colleagues in engineering, materials science, environmental science and economics on decision problems related to the management of environmental risks.  current projects include risk-informed site assessment for potential co2 sequestration reservoirs; and the potential impacts of china's position in the global market for rare earth elements on sustainable energy technologies in the u.s.

representative publications:
  • "the decision to utilize acidic mine drainage in hydraulic fracturing applications," with david yoxtheimer and thomas murphy, environmental practice 2012, under review.
  • "environmental controls of cadmium desorption during co2 leakage,"environmental science and technology 46, 2012.
  • "risk-informed site selection for the long-term geologic storage of carbon dioxide," with li li and evan frye, presentation to the national energy technology laboratory, pittsburgh pa, april 2010.

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