Publication Details

Title : Regional water consumption for hydro and thermal electricity generation in the United States
Publication Date : May 18, 2017
Publication Journal :
Authors : U. Lee, J. Han, A. Elgowainy, M. Wang
Abstract : Water is an essential resource for most electric power generation technologies. Thermal power plants typically require a large amount of cooling water whose evaporation is regarded to be consumed. Hydropower plants result in evaporative water loss from the large surface areas of the storing reservoirs. This study estimated the regional water consumption factors (WCFs) for thermal and hydro electricity generation in the United States, because the WCFs of these power plants vary by region and water supply and demand balance are of concern in many regions. For hydropower, total WCFs were calculated using a reservoir’s surface area, state-level water evaporation, and background evapotranspiration. Then, for a multipurpose reservoir, a fraction of its WCF was allocated to hydropower generation based on the share of the economic valuation of hydroelectricity among benefits from all purposes of the reservoir. For thermal power plants, the variations in WCFs by type of cooling technology, prime mover technology, and by region were addressed. The results show that WCFs for electricity generation vary significantly by region. The generation-weighted average WCFs of thermoelectricity and hydropower are 1.25 (range of 0.18–2.0) and 16.8 (range of 0.67–1194) L/kWh, respectively, and the generation-weighted average WCF by the U.S. generation mix in 2015 is estimated at 2.18 L/kWh.