Water is a shared, finite resource subject to competing demands. Utilization of fresh water resources continues to rise, and other pressures (droughts and climate variability, environmental needs, population increase, etc.) will require more stringent management of this finite resource to meet all needs in a sustainable manner.
EPRI estimates thermoelectric consumption of fresh water for cooling is 3-4% of total withdrawals in the United States, which is equivalent to 3.9 billion gallons per day. Various industrial and commercial applications also use fresh water for cooling, adding to the loss. Over the foreseeable future, water management restrictions for electricity generating units – Natural Draft, Coal, Nuclear, Renewables – will continue to increase, through stakeholder pressures and new regulations. A consensus among many governing agencies outlines new goals addressing long-term issues and to prevent shortages in water supply and disruptions in electric generation.
For the energy sector, these goals include the elimination of fresh water consumption in water-stressed areas, reductions in fresh water degradation, and more efficient electricity use and integrated management in the water supply and wastewater sectors. Regulatory changes could force limitations on withdrawals and consumption of fresh water, which could have significant negative impacts on efficiency and operation costs and will require technology breakthroughs in cooling and heat transfer.
EPRI is actively addressing key research gaps in water management to facilitate development of technologies that provide cost-effective solutions. EPRI’s Technology Innovation program is focusing on breakthrough technologies, while various research programs are conducting demonstrations of technologies closer to commercialization. To accelerate technology development and implementation, EPRI needs to expand current capabilities and conduct research in the middle of the development spectrum – between ideas/early breakthroughs and larger-scale demonstrations at/near commercialization.
This expansion will incorporate a new, comprehensive R&D test center dedicated to cooling and heat transfer improvements. It will serve as an industry-wide resource for evaluating technologies related to cooling system development, heat transfer improvements, chemistry control for scale and biofouling prevention, and water/moisture recovery. The center will also support improvements in material, sensors, and controls.