Launched by a division of MCNC, The Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) has streamlined complicated emissions modeling with a new automated, on-line system that EMC says saves significant time and cost for its clients.

“EDGE”, short for the Environmental Data GEnerator, is used as a tool to provide data to predict and improve overall air quality. The system is designed to simplify the process of preparing such data for federal requirements.

“The goal is to make the data easier to gather for an air quality analyst,” says Marc Houyoux, the inventor of the system and EMC project manager. “It’s the first time air modeling data can be compiled via the web.”

Another benefit, he adds, is that EDGE provides more control for those doing the modeling. EMC has experience providing emissions modeling assistance for research and regulatory air quality modeling purposes, but now the client can obtain this information without meeting with a contractor.

Potential users for the new EDGE system include state and federal government agencies, regional planning organizations, the EPA, universities and utility companies. Or, any entity that’s required to conduct air quality modeling by the government.

MCNC is a not-for-profit corporation and because of its primary focus on academic communities and government agencies has received supplemental dollars from the state. Today, that is no longer the case. It’s yet to be determined whether EDGE will lead to additional jobs within the EMC division, or how the new product will contribute to the company’s bottom line, according to a company spokesperson.

Cost benefits

Houyoux says the key is to save cost for a potential client up to $80,000 depending on the scope of the data needed. The system is automated because the EDGE interface service applies the environmental modeling, computing and technology service expertise known by EMC. It enables users to quickly obtain cost quotes, share information among other air quality and emissions modelers and configure SMOKE (Sparse Matrix Operator Kernel Emissions), EMC’s existing open-source emissions modeling system.

The system has been in development for more than 18 months, and production cost to EMC was approximately $100,000, says Houyoux. A patent is pending. The system has undergone two months of beta testing in which several groups participated including the state of Iowa and Washington State University. Feedback included adding more features and some has been incorporated, he says.


Modeling the air increases a scientist’s ability to better understand and simulate chemical and physical interactions in the atmosphere, Houyoux says. Additionally, experts rely on air quality models to evaluate the impact of air quality management practices for multiple pollutants, he adds.

Regulatory agencies address air quality issues by performing various studies to monitor trends and effects as well as to make forecasts. For example, the studies often lead to new emissions regulations on automobiles and manufacturing facilities.

According to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, North Carolina ozone levels in 1999 reached unhealthy levels at least somewhere in the state on 68 days, ranking the state fifth among the 50 states for unhealthy ozone. This is the department that’s responsible for air quality modeling, adds Houyoux.

“EDGE allows the modeling community to focus on solving real-world problems instead of exhausting time and human resources on technical aspects of model set-up and execution,” says Ed Bilicki, director of EMC. “EDGE streamlines the more time-consuming process of contacting EMC staff for a cost quote by empowering the client to do it online.”

The EDGE system will be demonstrated at the Atlanta EPA Emission Inventory conference beginning April 16.

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