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Electric Utilities and Water: Emerging Issues and R&D Needs

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Electricity production requires a reliable, abundant, and predictable source of water, a resource that is in limited supply in parts of the United States and much of the world. The process of thermoelectric generation from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, as well as nuclear power, is water intensive. In fact, each kWh generated requires on average approximately 25 gallons of water to produce. This means that U.S. citizens may indirectly depend upon as much water turning on the lights and running appliances as they may directly use taking showers and watering lawns. The demand for water by the electric-utility sector will compete with demands from other sectors of the economy. As such, the availability of adequate supplies of water to produce electricity and the impact of power plant operations on water quality are receiving increased attention.

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) sponsored a workshop on the interdependency of water and electric energy. The workshop, held on July 23-24, 2002 in Pittsburgh, PA, was cosponsored by two other DOE laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory. The purpose of this workshop was to provide a forum for discussion of current and emerging water issues that could impact electricity generation in the United States with the overall goal of identifying opportunities for public-private partnerships to address research and development (R&D) needs. The workshop covered a number of topics related to power plant water use, impacts on water quality, and siting and operation. This paper provides a summary of the results of the workshop and outlines DOE.NETL's path forward in initiating a water-management technology R&D effort.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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