The City of Oakland will soon be able to provide a neighborhood-by-neighborhood analysis of its carbon dioxide emissions, making it the first network of its kind.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley will install 40 sensors on local schools across a 27 square-mile grid throughout the city, providing a more accurate picture of CO2 levels at a micro level. The sensors will also make it easier to verify state-mandated emission-cutting strategies.
Known as the BEACON network, the sensors will also measure carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone levels along with temperature, pressure, and humidity. All of that data will be available on their website.
“Today, we monitor air quality in the entire East Bay from only about a dozen stations, but that gives you an average that may not be representative of what’s happening where you live,” said project leader Ron Cohen, UC Berkeley professor of chemistry, in a statement. “The advantage of many, many sensors is that the network captures the whole range of pollutant sources, from freeways to homes. This could inspire communities to think about local actions to change the CO2 they emit.”
But the sensors could also have an impact on businesses. In 2008, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District placed a carbon fee on regional businesses. With better data the fees can be accessed more accurately.
The new sensors will cost about one-twelfth as much as more detailed sensors Cohen and his team have created in the past. But the large numbers of the sensors — and the ability to have more in a city — will make up for the fact that they are less sensitive tools.
“A massive number of inexpensive sensors as common as cell phone towers will fundamentally change our knowledge,” said Cohen, who directs the Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center. “Real time observations will enable rapid verification of the effectiveness of policy and compliance with treaties and other agreements and commitments.”