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Scenarios for low carbon and low water electric power plant operations: implications for upstream water use
Dodder, R., J. Barnwell, AND W. Yelverton. Scenarios for low carbon and low water electric power plant operations: implications for upstream water use. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 50(21):11460-11470, (2016).
Our analysis addresses the following questions. First, how does moving to a lower carbon electricity generation mix affect the overall regional electric power water use from a life cycle perspective? Second, how does constraining the operational water use for power plants affect the mix, if at all? Third, how does the life cycle water use differ among regions under these low carbon and low water scenarios?
In the water-energy nexus, water use for the electric power sector is critical. Currently, the operational phase of electric power production dominates the electric sector's life cycle withdrawal and consumption of fresh water resources. Water use associated with the fuel cycle and power plant equipment manufacturing phase is substantially lower on a life cycle basis. An outstanding question is: how do regional shifts to lower carbon electric power mixes affect the relative contribution of the upstream life cycle water use? To test this, we examine a range of scenarios comparing a baseline with scenarios of carbon reduction and water use constraints using the MARKet ALlocation (MARKAL) energy systems model with ORD's 2014 U.S. 9-region database (EPAUS9r). The results suggest that moving toward a low carbon and low water electric power mix may increase the non-operational water use. In particular, power plant manufacturing water use for concentrating solar power, and fuel cycle water use for biomass feedstock, could see sharp increases under scenarios of high deployment of these low carbon options.
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