For long-term electricity infrastructure planning of the U.S. power grid under future climate and water resource condition, researchers have used a new modelling approach.
This new modelling approach used by researchers is a shift from traditional projections which do not consider climate-water impacts on electricity generation. The result shows that an addition of 5.3% to 12% of power-generating capacity is needed to meet reliability requirements.
Researchers have combined high-resolution hydrological, thermal-power plant, and capacity-expansion models to improve long-term electricity infrastructure planning.
The novelty of this approach is the use of feasibility checks on results which allowed researchers to assess the region-specific climate-water impact on power supply reliability and identify potential adaptation steps to improve reliability.
The study presents four research questions:
- How will future climate and water resource conditions impact 4 electricity scenarios?
- How will the new modelling of climate-water impacts compare to previous efforts on electricity-generation?
- What type of technology would be needed to adapt to future climate-water conditions, and meet reliable electricity-generation levels?
- What are the resulting economic and environmental implications?
To address these questions, researchers simulated capacity-expansion scenarios for four electricity mixes favouring different technology types (coal, nuclear, solar, and business as usual) with and without considering climate-water impacts.
When climate-water impacts and feasibility checks are not considered in the simulations, capacity reserve margins drop in reliability levels. This shows that the power systems may face reliability challenges without climate-water adaptation.
Viable solutions to meet future electric generation reliability include trade-offs in regional technology choice that prefers renewable-based compared to thermal power generation. This would reduce water use and emissions for electricity generation demands.
Currently, the U.S. grid heavily depends on thermal power plants that use coal, nuclear, and natural gas fuels which are affected by warm ambient temperatures and need large quantities of water to cool off.
Renewable sources like solar PV and wind have minimal water requirements for operation as they do not require cooling, but renewable sources do not account much in power generation across the U.S. power grid.
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