Energy and Environment Update: Crowdsourcing to Hunt for Power Plants

A team of researchers are asking the public to help them locate and count all the sources of CO2 coming from power plants on the planet. Called Ventus: Global Citizens Powering Solutions in Climate Change, the team of scientists from Arizona State University are crowdsourcing the information from individuals who register on the site. All that is involved is the filling out of an online form and the placing of a pin in a Google Map provided on the site.




To make it more interesting registrants receive a point for every confirmed power plant location sighting. If you have the highest total score you will be declared the Supreme Power Plant Emissions GURU when the study concludes in 2014. As Supreme GURU you will receive an engraved trophy and your name will be cited in the scientific paper that will subsequently be published. If you are camera shy you don’t have to register to report the location of a power plant. Just identify the site, place a pin on the map and fill out as much information as you know on the form. But if you don’t register you can’t be Supreme GURU.

What the scientists are trying to do is get an accurate picture of global CO2 output coming from power plants. Currently that number is estimated to be 40% of total CO2 emissions every year.

The site includes general guidelines for providing the power plant data. In summary they are:

  • You don’t have to fill in all the fields only those where you know the information to be accurate.
  • You should provide at least the source and year of any data you do enter.

There’s a great YouTube video tutorial to help you with data entry. So join this very interesting crowdsourcing experiment and become part of the fact finding regarding the current state of CO2 emissions from our burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...


  • JM

    Really interesting Len, thanks ​!
    ​Given your interest, I think that you (and the other readers here) would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across that theorizes about crowds and such similar phenomena.​ ​
    It’s called “The Theory of Crowd Capital” and you can download it here if you’re interested:
    In my view it provides a powerful, yet simple model, getting to the heart of the matter. Enjoy!