What’s that about “Intermittent Power”? Without Rain, Texas Coal Plants will have to shut down.
August 24, 2011
I’ve already reported on how Texas fossil fuel plants have been hampered by high heat conditions, and how wind energy has been vital and reliable, producing more than the expected amount of energy through the unprecedented drought. An even more pressing long term showstopper will be water. According to the National Atlas, Large Thermal power plants “account for about half of total water withdrawals. Most of the water is derived from surface water and used for once-through cooling at power plants. About 52 percent of fresh surface-water withdrawals and about 96 percent of saline-water withdrawals are for thermoelectric-power use.”
A number of Texas power plants may need to cut back operations or shut down completely if the state’s severe drought continues into the fall, an official with Texas’ main transmission manager told FuelFix.
At least one North Texas power plant has had to reduce how much it generates because the water level in its cooling reservoir has fallen significantly, said Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
If the state’s drought continues for much longer and water levels continue falling at other power plant reservoirs, other units could be forced to curtail operations or shut-down completely, Saathoff said.
“Right now we don’t have a significant problem with it, but it could become one,” Saathoff said in an interview. “This has been the driest 12-month stretch we’ve seen in Texas in a long time.”
Plug your iPhone into the wall, and about half a liter of water must flow through kilometers of pipes, pumps, and the heat exchangers of a power plant. That’s a lot of money and machinery just so you can get a 6–watt-hour charge for your flashy little phone. Now, add up all the half-liters of water used to generate the roughly 17 billion megawatt-hours that the world will burn through this year. Trust us, it’s a lot of water. In the United States alone, on just one average day, more than 500 billion liters of freshwater travel through the country’s power plants—more than twice what flows through the Nile.
When you’re forced to choose between power to keep the lights on, and water for your children to drink, thank a climate denier.