Thursday, 8 August 2013

Climate change could affect power plant operations & nuclear capacity according to DOE Report

Power Engineering

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says climate change and the resulting rising temperatures can potentially affect water levels and temperatures at power plants and affect demand on the power grid.

The report was released as part of the President's Climate Action Plan and states that every corner of the United States will be affected by increased temperatures. Increased temperatures and drought conditions can affect cooling water temperatures that are required for coal-fired and gas-fired power plants as reported by Power Engineering. Approximately 60 percent of the nation's thermal power plants that require water for cooling are located in areas that have been hard hit by drought conditions.

Temperatures have increased 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century. In hotter weather, customers use more electricity to cool their housing and businesses. A study by the DOE Argonne National Laboratory found that peak demand during hot weather could require the power output of 100 additional power plants.

Another example cited in the report is reduced water available for hydropower. In 2012, the Sierra Nevada Mountains experienced a lighter snowpack than normal. As a result, California had an eight percent drop in hydropower capacity. Lower levels in Lake Mead resulted in a 23 percent drop in the power generation at the Hoover Dam.

The DOE report says nuclear stations will shut down more often due to water temperatures, citing the shutdown in August 2012 at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station Shutdown due to warmer temperatures in Long Island Sound.

The report comes one week after President Obama, describing climate change as a threat to future generations, called for action to address the problem "before it's too late". The President said his goal is to cut heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.

An interactive map of the potential impacts on the U.S, energy supply can be found on the website.