Renewable energy technologies are infrequently evaluated with regard to water use for electricity generation; however traditional thermoelectric power generation uses approximately 50% of the water withdrawn in the US. To address problems of this water-energy nexus, we explore the replacement of existing electricity generation plants by renewable technologies, and the effect of this replacement on water use. Using a binary mixed integer linear programing model, we explore how the replacement of traditional thermoelectric generation with renewable solar and wind technologies can reduce future water demands for power generation. Three case study scenarios focusing on the replacement of the J.T. Deely station, a retiring coal thermoelectric generation plant in Texas, demonstrate a significant decrease in water requirements. In each case study, we replace the generation capacity of the retiring thermoelectric plant with three potential alternative technologies: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, concentrated solar power (CSP), and horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT). The first case study, which was performed with no limits on the land area available for new renewable energy installations, demonstrated the water savings potential of a range of different technology portfolios. Our second case study examined the replacement while constrained by finite available land area for new installations. This demonstrated the trade-off between land-use efficient technologies with water-use efficiency. Results from our third case study, which explored the replacement of a gas-fired plant with a capacity equivalent to the J. T. Deely station, demonstrated that more water efficient thermoelectric generation technologies produce lower percentages of water savings, and in two scenarios the proposed portfolios require more water than the replaced plant. Comparison of multiple aspects of our model results with those from existing models shows comparable values for land-use per unit of electricity generation and proposed plant size. An evaluation of the estimated hourly generation of our modelâ€™s proposed solution suggests the need for a trade-off between the intermittency of a technology and the required water use. As we estimate the â€œcostsâ€� of alternative energy, our results suggest the need to include in the expression the resulting water savings.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
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Stults, E. S. (2015). Minimizing Water Requirements for Electricity Generation in Water Scarce Areas. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/etd-dissertations/265
electricity generation, renewable energy, water requirements