Novel methodology for evaluating economic feasibility of low-water cooling technology retrofits at power plants

Ashlynn S. Stillwell, Michael E. Webber

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Abstract

Increasing demand on water supplies - already strained by population and economic growth and instream flow requirements - means many areas are considering conservation and reallocation to meet their needs. One method of increasing water availability is through low-water cooling technologies at thermoelectric power plants. Cooling towers, hybrid wet-dry and dry cooling systems reduce water requirements and the environmental impact at power plants but require additional capital and operating expenditure. These expenses can be offset with revenue from leasing water rights made available by new cooling technologies and the added benefit of drought resiliency. Thus, cooling technology retrofits are hypothesized as cost-effective opportunities for increasing drought resiliency and supporting instream flows. To test this hypothesis, we developed a novel methodology for evaluating drought resiliency as a function of economic and technical performance parameters. Using a river basin-based water resources model of 39 Texas power plants, we illustrate this methodology to determine the feasibility of retrofitting alternative cooling technologies. At current capital costs and water prices, switching to alternative cooling technologies is economically justifiable today at three facilities. Higher water prices, coupled with higher volatility in water availability, will be likely to make low-water cooling technologies economically viable at more power plants in the future.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages292-308
Number of pages17
JournalWater Policy
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

cooling water
power plant
methodology
economics
cooling
water
drought
instream flow
water availability
cost
price
expenditure
economic growth
population growth
environmental impact
river basin
water supply
water resource
retrofitting
rights

Keywords

  • Cooling tower
  • Dry cooling
  • Power plants
  • Texas
  • Water economics
  • Water policy
  • Water rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this

Novel methodology for evaluating economic feasibility of low-water cooling technology retrofits at power plants. / Stillwell, Ashlynn S.; Webber, Michael E.

In: Water Policy, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2013, p. 292-308.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

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