A Comparative Study of Cooling System Parameters in U.S. Thermoelectric Power Plants
As the importance of water use in the power generation sector increases across the nation, the ability to obtain and analyze real power plant data is pivotal in understanding the water energy nexus. The Navajo Generating Station in Arizona and the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama are examples of where water shortages have threatened the operation of power generators. The availability of freshwater in the United States is beginning to dictate how and where new power plants are constructed. The purpose of this study is to provide and analyze cooling system parameters using 2008 data provided by the Energy Information Administration. Additionally, the cost of water saved among different categories of power plants is calculated. In general, the conditions which cause cooling systems to withdraw less water are not necessarily the more expensive conditions, and vice versa. While not all the variability in the cost of cooling systems is being accounted for, the results from this study prove that nameplate capacity, capacity factor, age of power plant, and region affect the costs of installed cooling systems. This study also indicates that it would be most cost effective for once-through cooling systems to be replaced with recirculating- pond instead of recirculating- tower systems. The implications of this study are that as power plant owner's struggle in balancing cost with water dependence, several parameters must first be considered in the decision-making process.