Leiden University : Thirsty power plants: the water footprint of generating electricity
- Jun 24, 2022 2:32 am GMT
To generate electricity, power plants use huge amounts of water. In
Jin started his research into energy systems already during his master at the
Huge amounts of water
To generate non-renewable electricity, fossil fuels such as coal or gas or nuclear energy are burned. This releases heat, which is then converted into electricity. 'In that process, large amounts of water are needed. In particular for the cooling of the power plant. As the majority of the world's electricity is generated in this way, we are talking about enormous amounts of water. Studies in
40% of all water withdrawal in US and
Most of research into the water use of electricity is done in
The two biggest water resources in
Three ways to cool power plants
There are three ways to cool power plants. With a once through cooling systems (OTC), the cooling system takes water directly from the river. After using it, the water gets dumped back into the river. The opposite is a closed- loop cooling system where the water is stored in a water tower and used multiple times. A third option is cooling through the use of air.
'Difficult to say which cooling system is better'
'All these systems have their disadvantages and advantages,' Jin says. 'We look at two concepts to compare: water withdrawal and water consumption. That first one is the amount of water that the powerplants withdraws from the river or water source. The water consumption is the amount of water disappeared or evaporated through the utilization. The closed loop withdraws less water at first, but as a lot of water evaporates, it consumes a lot more in the end. Air cooling has the least impact on nature. But as air temperatures can differ a lot, it is way less efficient and stable.'
Finding a good solution
So which of these systems are better? That's difficult to say, according to Jin. 'And it also depends on the condition of the local water resources. The OTC system consumes less water, but has a larger impact on the local biodiversity. Even though there are rules in
So the best solution is to find renewable energy sources such as wind- and sunpower, Jin concludes. 'Now at least 67% of all electricity is generated by power plants. That needs to change. Hopefully this research is a way towards more awareness.' Another solution would be to use other energy types. 'Now we use fresh water instead of reclaimed- or seawater for cooling. The government in
Teacher in a Chinese university
After receiving his PhD, Jin will go back to
But one thing he does know for sure. 'I want to continue my research in this field, especially focused on the loss of biodiversity in freshwater due to
No discussions yet. Start a discussion below.
Get Published - Build a Following
The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.
If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.