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Collision Between Water and Energy Is Underway, and Worsening

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the just-put-power-plants-underwater-duh dept.

Power 189

An anonymous reader writes "This article is an eye opening perspective on another side effect of power generation — water usage: 'More than 40 percent of fresh water used in the United States is withdrawn to cool power plants. Renewable energy generally uses far less water, but there are glaring exceptions, such as geothermal and concentrating solar.' The article also mentions that power plants have to shut down if the incoming water is too warm to cool the plant. 'Also, even though some newer plants might use far less water, they could find that there’s far less water available as water temperatures go up and water flows go down. Another study found that nearly half of 423 U.S. plants were at risk of lower power output during droughts because their intake pipes for water were less than 3 meters below the surface.'"

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Self-correcting problem (3, Interesting)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a year ago | (#44333291)

More power plants = more greenhouse gases = global warming = higher seas

You know, assuming that all of these power plants output greenhouse gases. If not, someone needs to get on that.

Re:Self-correcting problem (4, Funny)

ElementOfDestruction (2024308) | about a year ago | (#44333341)

I know, right? I'm so sick of this "Sky is Falling" liberal nonsense. Humans will eventually learn to drink sea-water, just the way Darwin intended. Deal with it.

Re:Self-correcting problem (0)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#44333403)

Humans will eventually learn to drink sea-water or die, just the way Darwin intended. Deal with it.

I know you're being facetious, but FTFY.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

ElementOfDestruction (2024308) | about a year ago | (#44333419)

Are you saying that Darwin was a necrophiliac? Because I'm certainly not.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#44334011)

Why not? Why not use turd-water to cool plants?

It don't got to be clean drinking water for their purposes. We can send 'em water after it passes through sheep and people, and their toilets.

Re:Self-correcting problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334185)

Putting a Terry Gilliam quote in your sig doesn't hide your true nature. Why won't you stop impersonating apk?

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44334229)

People -> Sewer -> AIWPS [sdsu.edu] -> Power Plant

This does produce some byproducts... namely methane and algae. Which are both useful.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333379)

maybe i am missing the sarcasm, but i believe fresh water availabilty is the concern (for power plants).however,higher seas, coastal flooding, massive civilization downgrades and shifts....maybe that IS the answer!!

Re:Self-correcting problem (2)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a year ago | (#44333457)

No, no. More salt water = more desalinization plants = more power plants = more salt water.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333637)

You're missing the moral problem. Technically, yes, civilization will adapt. But it won't be equitable. Those in poor nations will bare the brunt of it; the poor in this country will bare the brunt of it. Tens of millions will die horrible deaths, while your children will simply pay higher electricity bills.

It's the inequality of needlessly impose suffering that is fundamentally immoral, disregarding various ecological arguments.

Re:Self-correcting problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333903)

You're missing the moral problem. Technically, yes, civilization will adapt. But it won't be equitable. Those in poor nations will bare the brunt of it; the poor in this country will bare the brunt of it. Tens of millions will die horrible deaths, while your children will simply pay higher electricity bills.

It's the inequality of needlessly impose suffering that is fundamentally immoral, disregarding various ecological arguments.

You know what is fundamentally immoral... Letting all of those suffering people live... After all, they are suffering... Maybe the moral thing to do is to put them all down and end their suffering.

Hey asshole... I bet if you simply got rid of the dictators and allowed the free market to flourish you could lift all of those people out of poverty. You know what the free market and industry need. Energy, labor, and resources... So, when you complain that energy production is hurting the poor you have no idea what you are talking about. All you need to do is look around your basement and see all the things you consider to be luxuries and then ask yourself where did those things come from? How were they made? You might also ask yourself... Do those items really prevent suffering? When you can answer those questions you will realize how idiotic your posted comment is.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year ago | (#44334339)

The moral flaw is with the people who told you that you were educated. "Bare" isn't "bear". Can you find the flaw in your second paragraph?

Re:Self-correcting problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333667)

i believe fresh water availabilty is the concern

It's a stupid concern, fresh water is not consumed in any capacity, it's just used as a cold sink. Once the water is released back into the river, it will pass the extra heat into the atmosphere and can be used again for another plant. There is no need to use fresh water for this task, any kind of waste pond, saline lake or sea is an effective cold sink. You can even use air, albeit with high capital expenses, large radiators and fans.

If worse come to worse, you can always use evaporating water as a cold sink. Assuming current regulations allow a 10K temperature differential at the outlet (to prevent river ecosystem damage), then the heat sunk is 40J/g. Vaporizing a single gram of water requires around 2000J. So you can use 50 times less water if you build a big ass cooling tower. Even boiling water is good enough cold sink (no cooling tower, just an open pool of boiling water) if you have a hot enough power source, say a gas cooled nuclear reactor.

The sky is falling, sensationalist hot air.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

Cramer (69040) | about a year ago | (#44333901)

Many plants already use evaporative cooling towers. The problem is still there... water still has to be pumped into those systems where it is "consumed" (turned into vapor.) Ponds tend to be far too small. Lakes rarely have an inflow matching or exceeding the cooling need -- they're basically huge reservoirs buffering the inflow -- as such, a decrease in rain can (does/has/and will) cause issues.

While there's a great deal of saltwater on the planet, very few power plants are near the ocean. (esp. in the US) Plus there are all kinds of issues with using seawater. (*cough*corrosion*cough*)

Re:Self-correcting problem (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year ago | (#44334169)

All of the UK's current nuclear reactors use seawater for cooling. Many coal-fired power stations (but not all of them) are also on the coast or estuaries and similarly use seawater for their cooling loops.

Corrosion is not a problem, just use marine-rated stainless steel pumps and piping for the loops and carry out preventative maintenance every now and then. Odd problems with seawater cooling do occur, such as a plague of jellyfish [bbc.co.uk] which threatened to block the seawater intakes at a Scottish reactor site and they were shut down for a time as a precaution.

Re:Self-correcting problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334237)

just use marine-rated stainless steel pumps and piping for the loops and carry out preventative maintenance every now and then

But that costs more money, it's cheaper just to ravage fresh water rivers and aquifers while they're available.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

dj245 (732906) | about a year ago | (#44334467)

All of the UK's current nuclear reactors use seawater for cooling. Many coal-fired power stations (but not all of them) are also on the coast or estuaries and similarly use seawater for their cooling loops.

Corrosion is not a problem, just use marine-rated stainless steel pumps and piping for the loops and carry out preventative maintenance every now and then. Odd problems with seawater cooling do occur, such as a plague of jellyfish [bbc.co.uk] which threatened to block the seawater intakes at a Scottish reactor site and they were shut down for a time as a precaution.

I have noticed that direct cooling (seawater/riverwater/lakewater) is popular in Europe. It fell out of favor in the US a while ago because the permitting was too troublesome. I haven't heard of a direct cooling water plant in the US built in the last 20 years. The US uses mostly air cooling or cooling towers. Air cooling is ideal environmentally, but is not nearly as efficient- thermodynamially it is worse and dozens of fans cost more to operate compared to pumps. Cooling towers are nearly as good as direct cooling and can be made to be relatively water-efficient.

It is a complete mystery to me why direct cooling is still used in environmentally-liberal Europe but is practically outlawed in the global-warming-denying USA.

Re:Self-correcting problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334205)

That's the whole point: where water is plentiful it can be used as is, and this accounts for the bulk of those 40% (which is likely an exaggeration). When water is not plentiful, you can use 50 times less of it by investing more into infrastructure. Half of Mississippi discharge (8.000 m^3/s) is enough to cool by evaporation 8.000 nuclear reactors each 3000MW thermal / 1000 MW electric. US consumption can be covered by a mere 500 such reactors. While the Mississippi is large, it represents a small fraction of total north-American discharge in the oceans.

You will not suck all of that salt water in the bowels of the plant, you would use a stainless steel heat exchanger. If it becomes too expensive to build plants in the desert, they will start building them near large bodies of water. The energy producers use a cheap resource, if it becomes scarce there are many solutions available. The whole issue is overly dramatic, there is no imminent collision between fresh water needs and power generation.

Re:Self-correcting problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333537)

"î'm on it".

[Putting a bucket of beans in the microwave],

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44333721)

More power plants = more greenhouse gases

How exactly is that true for nuclear power plants?

You're right that it's true for all other forms of energy production.

Re:Self-correcting problem (2)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44334129)

Nuclear, wind and solar don't generate greenhouse gasses during operation. (They all generate some greenhouse gasses during construction.)
Nuclear uses lots of water to cool the plant. Wind and solar photovoltaic don't use water during operation.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year ago | (#44334387)

Nuclear, probably generates quite a bit of carbon durning constructions because so much concrete is used, which is very very carbon intensive to produce.

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about a year ago | (#44334569)

*Drunk post, take with some salt* But nuclear energy is far more energy dense, produces far more energy, produces energy far more reliably (and stably) and lets not forget that it can be throttled far more easily than 'renewables' generally can. *serious question* How many GW/h of electricity has been produced by land based nuclear reactors compared to what renewables have produced thus far? I'm not talking theoretical capacity factors, I'm talking actual generation figures. It's likely that it'll never be accurately (or even truthfully) answered, but it's an interesting question. Just one other though, nuclear reactors that are powering ships and submarines are as far as I know completely sealed and have their own separate supply of water to cool themselves (where water is the coolant). Would it not be possible to ensure that land based reactors use the same design? Where the coolant is kept "in house" as it were? That said, I think that it might not be practical on a large scale due to the amount of energy being worked with... We must also not forget that there are various types of reactor. Each one uses water differently and some (as far as I know) do not use water at all (the lead cooled fast reactor of the Alfa class submarine comes to mind).. *End drunk post*

Re:Self-correcting problem (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44333825)

More power plants = more greenhouse gases = global warming = higher seas

Except if the higher seas are too hot for cooling the plant, also due to global warming....

Re: Self-correcting problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334119)

I don't know why I don't pay MORE for electricity.

Nuclear Closed Loop (2)

Ngakaukawa (1230196) | about a year ago | (#44334243)

What about using nuclear (reduced life cycle greenhouse gasses, yes, we need diesel to mine uranium/thorium) with a closed loop system through the heat exchangers? The problem is plants that tap well, river or ocean water, and run it through evaporative cooling towers. This problem is created by the economic advantage granted to building gignormous plants that can't dispose of heat easily to their cool heatsink (thermodynamics baby) in order to do work. Now about a small nuke plant like the naval reactors that doesn't generate the enormous amounts of waste heat?

This is more sensationalism than any real threat (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333301)

The fact that powerplants borrow water to cool themselves is no big deal. They give it all back.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333335)

That's probably even harder than trying to explain to what passes as an environmentalist these days that it's only steam rising out of nuclear power plants. They'll keep screaming that power plants burn babies to make energy and that they all need to shut down so we can go back to eating alongside sheep, which makes the whole cause look stupid.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (4, Insightful)

stevew (4845) | about a year ago | (#44333413)

What is even more ridiculous is the 40% number. Come ON! What about Agriculture. In CA something like 90% or our H2O usage goes to growing things. The power generation is tiny. Then there is the little detail that many of our power plants use ocean water!

I'm calling BS on that number.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333547)

It doesn't seem entirely out of line. From my hydrology textbook last year: cooling edges out agriculture for water utilization nationally, and both are much higher than the third biggest, which I believe is landscaping use.

But hey, the textbook could be entirely wrong. I'm sure your 90% figure is well-sourced.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44333685)

From my hydrology textbook last year: cooling edges out agriculture for water utilization nationally ... But hey, the textbook could be entirely wrong.

Either your textbook is completely wrong, or you just misunderstood what it said. Cooling uses very little water. It is no where near either agriculture or household use. The main problem with power plants is not that they "use up" water, but that they warm it up, causing thermal pollution. But the water is still available for other uses downstream.

Perhaps your textbook was talking about hydro-electric power plants (dams). But those don't use the water for cooling.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (5, Interesting)

negRo_slim (636783) | about a year ago | (#44333953)

http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1344/pdf/c1344.pdf [usgs.gov]

Total water withdrawals in the United States for 2005 were estimated for eight categories of use: public supply, domestic, irrigation, livestock, aquaculture, industrial, mining, and thermoelectric-power generation (fig. 1). Thermoelectric power was the largest category of water use, followed by irrigation and public supply

Page 5 has pictures and data, you might like that.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334225)

In as much as this still fails to address the question of whether the water is no longer suitable for reuse (as is the case with agriculture, for example), the same referenced publication contains this at the beginning:

Withdrawals for thermoelectric-power generation and irrigation, the two largest uses of water, have stabilized or decreased since 1980. Withdrawals for public-supply and domestic uses have increased steadily since estimates began.

Based upon that reference, it would seem that this is still a sensationalized story.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334503)

Not all of it goes back, a large chunk of that water goes to evaporate loss and migrates away from the withdrawal areas. It's really simple water cycle theory that anyone that has a third grade education should understand...

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (2)

Shoten (260439) | about a year ago | (#44333673)

The number seems fishy to me...because every power plant I've ever seen that was cooled with fresh water sits on a lake. The water enters the plant from the lake, cools the steam coming off of the turbine(s), and goes back to the lake. Some of it first goes through an osmosis filter for demineralization; that water becomes the steam that directly turns the turbine. But yeah...it's not like any of the water is destroyed or even vented as steam to the air. And the water they use isn't directly potable; they aren't drawing the water from the water mains. (Water mains don't supply enough water for it to even be feasible.) There is one exception, which is combustion turbine plants. But these are smaller, and use a very small amount of water for cooling in the same way our car radiators do; the consumption from these is almost negligible. (Come to think of it, has anyone checked out how much fresh drinking water gets used by all of our cars, in our radiators?)

Now, what they do say about how in heat waves some plants have to shut down or reduce their output because the water gets too warm...that fits. I've been on a lake attached to a fairly standard-sized coal-powered plant, and you could definitely feel the difference between where the intake of the plant was and where the output back into the lake was. It was that big of a difference; these plants put a LOT of heat into the water.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (4, Insightful)

Cramer (69040) | about a year ago | (#44334055)

Most power plants built the lake in the first place. And they don't discharge into the lake; they discharge at or downstream of the dam -- so they aren't pulling in their own hot water. Next to none (read: NONE) of the intake water is used in the turbine steam loops -- those are 100% closed loops, if you're losing water you have a problem. (a serious problem for nuke plants.) [note: steam loops use distilled water -- ZERO minerals, RO reduces the mineral/particle volume, but it's not zero.]

That said, there are still numerous plants that use evaporative cooling towers. And they do, indeed, require a significant volume of water that is "consumed" -- it goes up as vapor. While it isn't "drinking water", it's water that's not available to the filter plant that feeds your taps. In a drought, you have a choice... cool the power plant, or have water to drink.

No more ocean water cooling in CA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333789)

Then there is the little detail that many of our power plants use ocean water!

Well, they WERE designed to use ocean water. But California's State Water Resources Control Board has ordered them to stop using ocean water, in a phased plan starting soon and finishing by 2024.

Last I checked, California was REALLY broke, and this will cost billions, so I question whether this is really the time. But the costs will simply be passed along to the people of California who will just have to pay more for power.

Also, the power plant operators prefer to mitigate the harm to fish by just putting screens over the water intakes, rather than by scrapping the ocean cooling and switching to fresh water. This was not permitted.

http://www.calwatchdog.com/2011/03/23/ca-water-boards-%E2%80%98animal-farm%E2%80%99-policy/ [calwatchdog.com]

http://www.americanwaterintel.com/archive/1/11/general/california-orders-plants-cut-intake-flow-93.html [americanwaterintel.com]

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333819)

Hint: they are not really "using up" the water. They just warm it up by 1C or so. And they have to stop pumping when it gets warm because of environmental impact if they warm the water too much.

This entire terrible summary is just one giant FUD. For example, it is unknown if AGW will increase or decrease flows at a given river.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (4, Funny)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44333465)

The fact that powerplants borrow water to cool themselves is no big deal. They give it all back.

No, no, the article says "withdrawn" which means its not in the water bank anymore.
So at 40% per year, in two and a half years there will be no water left in the bank. We are Doomed.

To protect your future, you should run down and withdraw all your water from the bank today.
Horde it in your bed. (That's why water beds were invented).

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44333529)

Yes. I don't know why TFA is so hung up on the 40% since it's not like they boil it away of something.

The more significant issue of plants shutting down due to inadequate cooling water or the cooling water being too warm was crammed into the first two paragraphs and the map, then they went into the weeds.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (2)

tompaulco (629533) | about a year ago | (#44333817)

Well, it is true that we use 40% of our water for cooling energy plants, but that is kind of small in comparison with the fact that we use 10 million percent of our water, and growing by the second.

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (5, Informative)

edjs (1043612) | about a year ago | (#44333827)

The study is more about the risks that power plants may not have enough water available, not that they are using it up. The plants are competing for the water with those that do consume it, such as agriculture and residential, exacerbated by long term drought cycles in some areas, and climate change.
 

Re:This is more sensationalism than any real threa (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44334163)

Ever seen a "cooling tower" (common for nuclear plants and coal plants)? Water disappears into thin air, not into the ground.
That's the problem that TFA was discussing.

hmm... (1)

Flozzin (626330) | about a year ago | (#44333333)

"less than 3 meters below the surface.'" That can't be fixed, ever...[sarcasm]

Re:hmm... (1)

edjs (1043612) | about a year ago | (#44333795)

Studying and pointing out the risks increases the chances it will be fixed before it becomes an issue.

FUD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333337)

More worry about "problems" that don't exist.

If a real issue with the use of fresh water for cooling develops, we will switch to another cooling liquid. Coastal facilities already use saltwater and there are other options as well.

But, it's not yet a problem so, we will continue to use fresh water for cooling.

Re:FUD (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#44333375)

Because, of course, planning for a few decades in the future costs money and requires political will. We'll let tomorrow worry about the problems we're creating! I'm so lucky to live in the Age of the Sociopath.

Re:FUD (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44333489)

Yup, because as soon as that water for cooling is all gone, there will be no more water.
40%!!! The greedy bastards. !!

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333681)

Those people tomorrow? They'll be richer and more powerful than us. They'll have more options. And they'll actually have the problem at their feet so will be in a position to know which solutions are best.

But preach on about how everyone is selfish but you.

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333739)

What do you think happens to the water during the cooling process? Where do you think the water goes afterwards? Were you following the golden rule when you called the GP a sociopath?

Re:FUD (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44334659)

Because, of course, planning for a few decades in the future costs money and requires political will.

I refuse to consider this chicken little bullshit as "planning" for anything.

Re:FUD (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#44333543)

If a real issue with the use of fresh water for cooling develops, we will switch to another cooling liquid.

Good plan! Where are you going to get cold INSERT_COOLING_LIQUID_HERE and dump the hot INSERT_COOLING_LIQUID_HERE? Because right now, most of the water comes from the local lake or river, and either goes back into the local lake or river several degrees hotter, or else is boiled for steam.

you know we'll dry up all the aquifiers first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333365)

Yup, water is pretty much the most important thing that we have on this planet. We can't even get that right.

wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333371)

Doesn't almost all of that water get put back, albeit a few degrees warmer?

Re:wait (1)

ElmoGonzo (627753) | about a year ago | (#44333405)

In the best of all possible worlds, it would be a closed-loop system where the steam powers the turbines and then flows back around to be re-heated. As it is now, the cooling water wastes the energy it took to heat it in the first place.

Re:wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333607)

I'm not sure you're familiar with the purpose and function of typical cooling systems in power plants. Here's a relevant primer: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/energy-and-water-use/water-energy-electricity-cooling-power-plant.html

Re:wait (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44333725)

There are closed loop systems [wikipedia.org] , but you still need to cool and condense the steam back to water just to pipe it around, and re-heat it. Pushing spent (low pressure) steam back into your heating plant is no where near as efficient as sending water in. Condensing to water and pumping that is actually more efficient.

Most electrical generation plants have two or three stages of generation, where the steam exiting the high pressure turbines is re-heated with with flue gases and
sent through the medium and low pressure turbines. At the end of the line they have extracted just about all the heat they can from it.

The problem is we have no really good use for the remaining heat of spent steam. And no way to extract the remaining heat into a useful form, or
recycle it back into the plant or any other economical use.

So we essentially heat the atmosphere, by venting it into cooling towers.

But the water? It all gets returned to the cooling pond, except that bit that you see rising as vapor (its not steam) above the cooling towers.
.

Re:wait (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year ago | (#44333899)

There are some uses for spent steam and even warmed water from the condensers but they are somewhat limited. My brother was involved with designing a combination generating set fuelled by natural gas which also produced process steam for sugar refining. Previously the sugar company had bought in electricity and produced low-pressure steam separately in gas-fired boilers. Afterwards they sold excess generating capacity to the grid and improved their financial bottom line by a healthy chunk.

waste entropy is waste (2)

sam_vilain (33533) | about a year ago | (#44333509)

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a good guide on this [ucsusa.org] ; also distinguishing between water withdrawal and water consumption.

Re:waste entropy is waste (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333877)

You mean the union of people who can pay $25 dollars to join an environmentalist group. The only actual criteria for joining this group of "scientists" is that you know how to use a credit card or write a check. They would be better off renaming themselves to the Union of Concerned Luddites which would better reflect their actual views on science and technology.

NSA Datacenter (5, Interesting)

SecretSquirrel33 (1857738) | about a year ago | (#44333451)

I live close to the new NSA data center in Bluffdale, Utah [wired.com] . Currently we are under a drought with widespread municipal water restrictions, yet the NSA surveillance center requires 1.7M gallons of water daily [ksl.com] to operate.

Expensive water solves the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333469)

Expensive water solves the problem -- by making sophisticated cooling systems that use low-temperature difference engines to cool the plant, closed-loop cooling with a condenser, etc. An ICE in a car is not called a "power plant" just to be cute. It really is a power plant that uses closed-loop cooling, rejecting waste-heat to the air. They would do that on stationary plants too; but when you've got a big friggin' river going by, why spend the money? Can't use the river anymore? Spend the money on a fancier closed-loop system, get fancy about storing thermal mass during the winter, pump heat into the bedrock and use the Earth as a heat sink, etc. All of these things are expensive; but when the cost of the current system becomes higher than the cost of installing these retrofits, then the retrofits will be installed.

what happened to drowning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333493)

I thought we were all going to drown "any day now" due to global warming...

And then they give it back. (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#44333499)

Water-cooled power plants take in water. And then they put it out again, warmer. They don't use it up. At worst some of it comes out as water vapor from cooling towers, which condenses out.

Re:And then they give it back. (1)

NIK282000 (737852) | about a year ago | (#44333621)

Unless you are shipping your water off planet, none of our water gets "used up." Water that comes out of a power plant doesn't go directly into the city water, it has to be collected and treated first. That collection and treatment costs money, time and energy.

Re:And then they give it back. (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44333887)

They should follow the approach Google is using in some datacenters, and use the recycled/treated gray water for the power plant.

The power plants need not take in potable water; they could largely take in the sewer water, before using it to cool the plant, treat it a bit further, and then dump that back out into the rivers....

Re:And then they give it back. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333979)

False.

Water is "used up" all the time. Plants convert water and Carbon-Dioxide into breathable Oxygen and sugar. Countless chemical processes use water and convert it into something else and countless more, such as the burning of fossil fuels or even a backyard bonfire, convert non-water compounds into water. Sometimes water even directly decomposes into it's base elements Hydrogen and Oxygen.

The notion that water is available on the earth in a constant amount is rooted in creationist foolishness. The net sum of water available on earth fluctuates greatly from day to day.

Re:And then they give it back. (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44334623)

The net sum of water available on earth fluctuates greatly from day to day.

No, it doesn't. For if that were true, we'd see large scale changes in sea level from day to day. We don't because there is vastly more water on Earth than is created or destroyed by these little processes.

Drinking water doesn't use it up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334595)

It comes right back out again, just a bit warmer. At worst you lose from the steam coming off and from dripping, so be sure to shake well.

Build power plants with access to sea water. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333519)

Cool them with sea water. Collect the steam for people to drink. Collect the salt too. Seems like an obvious solution.

Solar PV Also needs water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333535)

He seams to over look the huge amount of water need in the production of solar cells. Also Water is used to keep the damn panels clean.

LFTR (1, Informative)

gunnaraztek (1077439) | about a year ago | (#44333541)

Such a simple solution.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

Has passive safeties, does not use water to cool, heats up gas to generate power.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LFTR [wikipedia.org]
http://energyfromthorium.com/ [energyfromthorium.com]

Re:LFTR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333713)

You do realize that a LFTR would eventually need a heat sink which would likely be water? LFTR's would just replace the closed loop in current reactors.

Re:LFTR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333777)

Don't be an idiot. No nuclear reactor is directly cooled with river water. All nuclear power plants however are just fancy ways of creating lots of steam to drive a turbine, and your beloved Thorium Reactor is no exception. That part of the power plant is roughly 40 percent efficient due to thermodynamic limits. 60 percent of the heat generated by the reactor and transferred to the steam is waste heat that the plant has to get rid off somehow. Sometimes its used for heating homes, but mostly it's transferred to the environment.

Re:LFTR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333933)

Don't be an idiot.

Don't be an asshole.

Re:LFTR (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334125)

You're right, anyone who advocates a specific type of nuclear reactor probably knows that a thorium nuclear power plant needs as much water as any other type of nuclear power plant, so he's not an idiot but an asshole who pretends that his preferred type of reactor has an advantage that doesn't actually exist.

Alternative Deep Ocean Power is Feasible (5, Interesting)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#44333549)

When you put generators down 5-6000 feet in deep fast ocean currents, which run virtually at constant speed year round, the amount of power available down there is staggering. Obviously it only works near coastline regions, but that is where the large populations tend to be, though not all coasts have deep water currents.

Superconducting long distance transmission lines are improving in capability, so maybe distance is not so much a problem in the future.

It is not technically difficult or polluting. We already put complex anchors and devices at those depths for oil drilling.

No need for radioactive stuff, no cooling, no dead birds, no pulsing noise to humans, no polution.

It takes damn good engineering, but that is what we are damn good at.

Start now.

Re:Alternative Deep Ocean Power is Feasible (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333717)

If I learned anything from the stellar season finale of Sea Quest: DSV, it's that your plan will result in devastating, apocalyptic seismic events that will prove, conclusively, that there is no free energy on this planet. Which in retrospect actually makes Captain Planet's byline, "The power is yours", seem a little ironic.

Re:Alternative Deep Ocean Power is Feasible (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44333839)

Especially in places like off the coast of the Atacama desert in Chile - you don't have to go deep to get a big temperature difference between the water temperature (with the cold current coming all the way from Antarctica) and the air temperature on land.

Yeah, It Seemed Like An Infinite Resource (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#44333551)

I mean really 2/3rds of the planet is covered in the stuff. You don't think you're going to run out of water. And then you do. Gasoline felt the same way in the 70's. Funnily enough, even though we haven't reached that point with water yet, a lot of people will pay more per gallon for it than for gasoline today, for bottled water that the grocery store filled from its taps.

The demonization of conventional sources of energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333587)

So if the greens can't shut down all fossil fuel/nuclear plants on the basis of carbon dioxide/nuclear waste, they will shut them down on the basis of OMG, we are are running out of water and will all die of thirst. If that angle to shut down the world's energy production doesn't work, then they will dream up of another scenario to give them the regulatory power to do so. In the environmentalists view, the only acceptable forms of energy generation are solar/wind, but only in somebody else's backyard. Never mind whether or not the technology is actually capable of producing the amounts of energy a society needs, on a reliable basis, and at a price that is competitive in the global economy.

Known since 1976... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333615)

The amount of available cooling water has been recognized as a limit to US Electricity production in a "business as usual" case since at least the mid-70's. Sadly, we've only made it a about a decade past the original projections of when we'd hit the limits, despite quite good improvements in end-use efficiency (being more light/heat/cooling/calculations per kWh)...
 
We've a long way to go, unfortunately.

This makes ethanol that much worse.. (2)

schivvers (823289) | about a year ago | (#44333625)

If you would like to do a little further digging on unwise usage of water look into large scale ethanol production (not whiskey) http://www.swhydro.arizona.edu/archive/V6_N5/feature4.pdf [arizona.edu] sorry i don't know how to use html (I am a geek just not a good one!) My fancies lie in the chemistry and drug development distribution world....please forgive.

I forgot the chart from the article/pdf above (1)

schivvers (823289) | about a year ago | (#44333699)

The Numbers 96% of corn used for ethanol production is not irrigated 785 gallons water per gallon of ethanol (average crop irrigation) 3-4 gallons water per gallon ethanol (dry grind production) 1.9-6 gallons water per gallon ethanol (conceptual cellulosic production) 2-2.5 gallons water per gallon gasoline (petroleum refining) 0.6 gallons water per kilowatt-hour (coal-fired power plant) ds

Some math about water usage by power plant? (2)

u19925 (613350) | about a year ago | (#44333631)

The study referenced in article says, "And in Texas, regulators denied developers of a proposed 1,320-megawatt coal plant a permit to with draw 8.3 billion gallons". Since USA has about 1100 GW of installed capacity (including hydro), this approximately translates into 7.5 trillion gallons or about 20 billion gallons a day. According to ucsusa [usgs.gov] , the total withdrawal by power plants is 200 billion gallons a day. So it looks like the old power plants are the main culprits.

Re:Some math about water usage by power plant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333837)

Nope. It's all pure thermodynamics. It doesn't matter how the plant generates the heat. In the end you get 30 to 40 percent usable energy and 60 to 70 percent waste heat, and you remove a fixed amount of waste heat by warming a given volume of water by a given temperature difference. You can remove the same amount of waste heat by heating less water to a higher temperature or more water to a lower temperature, but that's just physics and doesn't depend on the type or age of the power plant. If you evaporate water, you can cool quite a bit more with the same amount of water, but of course then you can't put that water back in the river.

Re:Some math about water usage by power plant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333949)

As was asked above, how much is discharged?
According to this whitepaper, [doe.gov] water use for once-through cooling is 37.7gal/kWh with 0.1gal/kWh consumed. For the recirculating plants, they use 1.2gal/kWh, consuming 1.1gal/kWh.

Just not as big a problem as people think (1, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#44333653)

Water circulates. It moves all over the place whether we like it or not. We should be more concerned about pollution than water. It doesn't truly get "used" as much as it gets moved from one place to another.

All that said, we continuously use increasingly more efficient things which use energy. It's important we continue doing that. We continually develop efficient energy production systems. It's important we continue doing that... and perhaps important that we do that even more. Efficiency is good for everyone except people who sell the resource at the core of this -- energy.

But to say "OMG! We're running out of water!?" Just not happening. We need better ways to manage water, but we're not exactly running out either.

Re:Just not as big a problem as people think (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44334109)

Sugar is the result of water and carbon dioxide being converted via photosynthesis.

In the same way, H2O and CO2 are effectively "used up" in the growth processes of all plant life. To say water does not get removed from the water cycle is dangerously wrong.

Well then shouldn't we be using water in... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#44333661)

...HHO engines instead where it turns back into clean water?

We need to stop this insanity (1)

wakeboarder (2695839) | about a year ago | (#44333663)

Stop using electricity, stop using energy, your contributing to the destruction of the planet.

like opening your fridge to cool you house (1)

slew (2918) | about a year ago | (#44333697)

In power plants, water is kind of being used as a cheap waste heat reservior. We are just too cheap to use other heat exchange techiques since water is cheap and available, other exchangers/reservior techniques are less economically viable.

Most folks realize that opening your fridge to cool your house probably isn't a long term solution.
That's when they install AC where at least the heat reseviour is outside the house.
But of course if you were to scale your AC unit past a certain point, it's kind of like your fridge situation all over again...

The end solution of course is to: stop warming up the local environment and use less energy.

Just combine utilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44333785)

We just need combinations of vital services, the department or water/power/waste/compost/fuel/and server cooling. Add more factors to already existing services and reduce the geographical footprint.

What isn't mentioned in the summary ... (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#44333807)

Most of the water used for cooling goes back into the lake or river since it's being used to take heat somewhere else instead of being consumed.
Warm water can have a non-trivial environmental impact but newer plants can reduce this to trivial by having a lot of small outlets instead of one large one.

Re:What isn't mentioned in the summary ... (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#44333913)

Warm water can have a non-trivial environmental impact but newer plants can reduce this to trivial by having a lot of small outlets instead of one large one.

They can construct an artificial body of water, and mix the output water with fresh water, before releasing it back into the sea.

Re:What isn't mentioned in the summary ... (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a year ago | (#44334221)

Pollution dilution... it's been around for a long time... still not a solution.

AC's Conclusion? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#44334035)

Burn more of that Coal baby, we'll beat the Chinese yet!

Typical AC, the U.S. is between two of the largest bodies of water on this planet which is grinningly ignored.

Heat (0)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#44334415)

Problem:
1. Too much CO2
2. Too much waste heat from power generation

Solution:
1. Fewer people
2. Move earth further out from sun
3. Reflect sunlight

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