Thursday, August 17, 2006

Too Hot to Cool

Incredible Melting Man

Several years ago, while scouting for good wind plant locations during a particularly dry spell, (much like the one we have now) my partner and I noticed that the cooling pond for a particular coal plant was getting smaller and smaller.

I opined at the time, that not only was it smaller, it was warmer, and that in the future, more droughts would make our conventional plants, whether fired by nuclear, coal, or natural gas, less efficient and less capable of delivering electrical energy. At the very least, the plants would become even larger consumers of (unbudgeted and unplanned) water resources.

Now, the truth of that revelation is wiggling its way into the European press.

Here is the story.

Climate Change threatens Europe's power sector
By Daniel Fineren

LONDON (Reuters) - Climate change could reshape Europe's energy sector as hotter and drier summers boost electricity demand and place new strains on its power stations.

Power systems which have kept the lights on for decades are under scrutiny after a heatwave last month -- the second in three years -- forced generators to curb output just as demand for air conditioning rose, forcing up energy prices and threatening power cuts.

"As climate change has more of an effect we could see demand patterns change as we have hotter summers and warmer winters," a spokesman for the UK arm of Germany utility E.ON said.

"That's something that we're already looking at because it could well inform future investment decisions and the way we run our business in future decades."

The vulnerability of nuclear power stations to extreme heat became all too clear last month as reactors in France and Germany had to rein-in production because the river water they need to cool down was too warm.

In Spain, more used to the heat than northern Europe, most reactors kept running through July, but the oldest reactor was still forced to stop because of tepid river water.

Europe's gas and coal-fired plants also laboured in the heat and lower river levels.

"Output from many forms of generation, especially gas-fired, is reduced in hot weather," according to a UK Met Office report on the impact of climate change.

"In a future hot dry summer, if the volume of water in a river that supplies cooling water was markedly reduced, it is possible that a power station would have to reduce output."

At the same time that hot weather impacts power supply it also pushes up demand as air conditioning and refrigeration units go into overdrive. "


Obviously, electrical energy from dams and other river flows will also be effected by climate change too.

Those who believe that Nuclear Power is a non carbon emitting solution to meeting our electrical needs have probably not given this issue nearly enough consideration.

A warming world will reduce runnoff from rivers.

It will shrink power plant cooling ponds.

It will make the plant less efficient and reduce its capacity factor.

The water needs that will be stated on the permit application,

will not be the actual water needs in the actual operation of the plant.

In a sane world,

these plants would be banned.

And only solar, and wind, and other renewable energy generation

would be permited at all.

In a sane world,

we would do what needs to be done now before it's

too hot to cool.

In a sane world that is.

Melting Pot


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art courtesy of Harold Larson
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