Saturday, September 22, 2012

Droughts Making It Harder To Produce Electricity

Electricity generation is the biggest single user of water in the U.S., according to an analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey, which found that power plants account for nearly half of all water withdrawn from American rivers, lakes and seashores each day—more than 200 million gallons worth. The drought that parched more than 30 states this summer is forcing the power industry to rethink its heavy use of water and adopt technology to use less of it.
The water, which surpasses by far the amount used for irrigation, is converted to steam to turn turbines, and is used to cool equipment at many kinds of plants, including nuclear, coal and gas units. Much of it later is put back, though in heated form.

This summer, however, some power plants had to cut electricity production because of low water levels or because water was too warm to cool nuclear reactors. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the period from August 2011 through July 2012 was the hottest 12-month period on record in the U.S. since 1895.

Low water levels remain a concern for both power companies and the agencies that operate electric grids across the country, the federal Energy Information Administration said earlier this month. (WSJ, 9/21/2012, graphic courtesy WSJ)

No comments: