The Northeastern United States Energy-Water Nexus: Climate Change Impacts and Alternative Water Management Strategies for the Power Sector
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 12:05 PM
The Northeastern United States (NE) relies heavily on thermoelectric power plants (90% of total capacity) to provide electricity to more than 70 million people. This region’s power plants require consistent, large volumes of water at sufficiently cold temperatures to generate electricity efficiently, and withdraw approximately 10.5 trillion gallons of water annually. Previous findings indicate that assessments of future electricity pathways must account for water availability, water temperature and the changing climate, as changes in these conditions may limit operational efficiency in the future. To account for such electric system vulnerabilities, we have created a link between an electricity system capacity expansion model (ReEDS) and a hydrologic model that is coupled to a power plant simulation model (FrAMES-TP2M) that allows for a new approach to analyze electricity system development, performance, and environmental impacts. Together, these coupled tools allow us to estimate electricity development and operations in the context of a changing climate and impacts on the seasonal spatial and temporal variability of water resources, downstream thermal effluents that cause plant-to-plant interferences and harm aquatic habitat, economic costs of water conservation methods and associated carbon emissions. In this study, we test and compare a business-as-usual strategy with three alternative water management scenarios that include changes in cooling technologies and water sources utilized for the years 2014-2050. Results of these experiments can provide useful insight into the feasibility of the electricity expansion scenarios in terms of associated water use and thermal impacts, carbon emissions, the cost of generating electricity, and also highlight the importance of accounting for water resources in future power sector planning and performance assessments.