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Title: Thermal pollution impacts on rivers and power supply in the Mississippi River watershed

Abstract

Thermal pollution from power plants degrades riverine ecosystems with ramifications beyond the natural environment as it affects power supply. The transport of thermal effluents along river reaches may lead to plant-to-plant interferences by elevating condenser inlet temperatures at downstream locations, which lower thermal efficiencies and trigger regulatory-forced power curtailments. We evaluate thermal pollution impacts on rivers and power supply across 128 plants with once-through cooling technologies in the Mississippi River watershed. By leveraging river network topologies with higher resolutions (0.05 degrees) than previous studies, we reveal the need to address the issue in a more spatially resolved manner, capable of uncovering diverse impacts across individual plants, river reaches and sub-basins. Results show that the use of coarse river network resolutions may lead to substantial overestimations in magnitude and length of impaired river reaches. Overall, there is a modest limitation on power production due to thermal pollution, given existing infrastructure, regulatory and climate conditions. However, tradeoffs between thermal pollution and electricity generation show important implications for the role of alternative cooling technologies and environmental regulation under current and future climates. Recirculating cooling technologies may nearly eliminate thermal pollution and improve power system reliability under stressed climate-water conditions. Regulatory limits also reducemore » thermal pollution, but at the expense of significant reductions in electricity generation capacity. However, results show several instances when power production capacity rises at individual plants when regulatory limits reduce upstream thermal pollution. Furthermore, these dynamics across energy-water systems highlight the need for high-resolution simulations and the value of coherent planning and optimization across infrastructure with mutual dependencies on natural resources to overcome climate-water constraints on productivity and bring to fruition energy and environmental win-win opportunities.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [1];  [2]; ORCiD logo [3];  [4]; ORCiD logo [1];  [2]
  1. Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center of the City Univ. of New York, New York, NY (United States); The City College of New York, New York, NY (United States)
  2. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
  3. Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
  4. The City College of New York, New York, NY (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
National Science Foundation (NSF); USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1457125
Report Number(s):
NREL/JA-6A20-70881
Journal ID: ISSN 1748-9326
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC36-08GO28308
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 13; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 1748-9326
Publisher:
IOP Publishing
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; energy-water nexus; climate; thermal curtailments; cooling systems; Clean Water Act

Citation Formats

Miara, Ariel, Vorosmarty, Charles J., Macknick, Jordan E., Tidwell, Vincent C., Fekete, Balazs, Corsi, Fabio, and Newmark, Robin L. Thermal pollution impacts on rivers and power supply in the Mississippi River watershed. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaac85.
Miara, Ariel, Vorosmarty, Charles J., Macknick, Jordan E., Tidwell, Vincent C., Fekete, Balazs, Corsi, Fabio, & Newmark, Robin L. Thermal pollution impacts on rivers and power supply in the Mississippi River watershed. United States. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaac85.
Miara, Ariel, Vorosmarty, Charles J., Macknick, Jordan E., Tidwell, Vincent C., Fekete, Balazs, Corsi, Fabio, and Newmark, Robin L. Thu . "Thermal pollution impacts on rivers and power supply in the Mississippi River watershed". United States. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaac85. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1457125.
@article{osti_1457125,
title = {Thermal pollution impacts on rivers and power supply in the Mississippi River watershed},
author = {Miara, Ariel and Vorosmarty, Charles J. and Macknick, Jordan E. and Tidwell, Vincent C. and Fekete, Balazs and Corsi, Fabio and Newmark, Robin L.},
abstractNote = {Thermal pollution from power plants degrades riverine ecosystems with ramifications beyond the natural environment as it affects power supply. The transport of thermal effluents along river reaches may lead to plant-to-plant interferences by elevating condenser inlet temperatures at downstream locations, which lower thermal efficiencies and trigger regulatory-forced power curtailments. We evaluate thermal pollution impacts on rivers and power supply across 128 plants with once-through cooling technologies in the Mississippi River watershed. By leveraging river network topologies with higher resolutions (0.05 degrees) than previous studies, we reveal the need to address the issue in a more spatially resolved manner, capable of uncovering diverse impacts across individual plants, river reaches and sub-basins. Results show that the use of coarse river network resolutions may lead to substantial overestimations in magnitude and length of impaired river reaches. Overall, there is a modest limitation on power production due to thermal pollution, given existing infrastructure, regulatory and climate conditions. However, tradeoffs between thermal pollution and electricity generation show important implications for the role of alternative cooling technologies and environmental regulation under current and future climates. Recirculating cooling technologies may nearly eliminate thermal pollution and improve power system reliability under stressed climate-water conditions. Regulatory limits also reduce thermal pollution, but at the expense of significant reductions in electricity generation capacity. However, results show several instances when power production capacity rises at individual plants when regulatory limits reduce upstream thermal pollution. Furthermore, these dynamics across energy-water systems highlight the need for high-resolution simulations and the value of coherent planning and optimization across infrastructure with mutual dependencies on natural resources to overcome climate-water constraints on productivity and bring to fruition energy and environmental win-win opportunities.},
doi = {10.1088/1748-9326/aaac85},
journal = {Environmental Research Letters},
number = 3,
volume = 13,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Mar 08 00:00:00 EST 2018},
month = {Thu Mar 08 00:00:00 EST 2018}
}

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