Modeling Water Withdrawal and Consumption for Electricity Generation in the United States
by Strzepek, K., J. Baker, W. Farmer, and C. Adam Schlosser (June 2012)
Joint Program Report Series, 46 pages, 2012
Water withdrawals for thermoelectric cooling account for a significant portion of total water use in the United States. Any change in electrical energy generation policy and technologies has the potential to have a major impact on the management of local and regional water resources. In this report, a model of Withdrawal and Consumption for Thermo-electric Systems (WiCTS) is formalized. This empirically-based framework employs specific water-use rates that are scaled according to energy production, and thus, WiTCS is able to estimate regional water withdrawals and consumption for any electricity generation portfolio. These terms are calculated based on water withdrawal and consumption data taken from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) inventories and a recent NREL report. To illustrate the model capabilities, we assess the impact of a high-penetration of renewable electricity-generation technologies on water withdrawals and consumption in the United States. These energy portfolio scenarios are taken from the Renewable Energy Futures (REF) calculations performed by The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Results of the model indicate that significant reductions in water use are achieved under the renewable technology portfolio. Further experiments illustrate additional capabilities of the model. We investigate the impacts of assuming geothermal and concentrated solar power technologies employing wet cooling systems versus dry as well as assuming all wet cooling technologies use closed cycle cooling technologies. Results indicate that water consumption and withdrawals increase under the first assumption, and that water consumption increases under the second assumption while water withdrawals decrease.
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