Culture 3 min read

Water Shortage may Affect Asia's Coal-Based Power Plants

A new study suggests that water shortage due to climate change will have a significant impact on coal-fired power plants in some Asian countries.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

According to a new study, climate change and over-tapped waterways could cause a water shortage in the developing parts of Asia. And, it could leave several coal-burning power plants vulnerable soon.

One significant effect of climate change is the ever-changing weather, which leads to extreme events. As a result, some parts of the world experience torrential rainfall, while other regions including some parts of Asia are encountering drought.

Aside from its impact on biodiversity, drought also affects power generation in these areas.

Associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering, at The Ohio State University, Jeffrey Bielicki said:

“The power plants – coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants – require water for cooling, so when you don’t have the rain, you don’t have the streamflow, you can’t cool the power plant.”

Some power plants in the United States are already experiencing this issue. However, a study suggests that the problem may be more significant in the developing parts of Asia.

These include Mongolia, China, Southeast Asia, and parts of India, where over 400 gigawatts of new coal-burning power plants are expected to be in operation by 2030. That’s huge!

By comparison, the largest coal-fired power plant in Ohio only produces about 2,600 megawatts of electricity.

The increased power production raises the demand for water to cool the plant. Climate change, on the other hand, has significantly hampered rainfall supply in these regions.

This leads to a problem which Yaoping Wang, a former doctoral student at Ohio State and her colleagues explored in a recent study.

The Effect of Water Shortage On Asia’s Coal-Based Power Plants

Cooling is essential for any power plant’s effective operation.

Without it, not only could the machinery overheat, but it could shut down, ultimately disrupting power supply. Also, it creates the potential for additional pollution.

For the study, the researchers analyzed databases of existing and planned coal-fired power plants. Using this information with some high-resolution hydrological maps, the team was able to evaluate possible strains to the power supply in the region.

They also considered climate scenarios such as a temperature increase that ranges from 2.7 – 4.8 degrees Fahrenheit, including various cooling systems. The researchers also discussed the possibility of using post-combustion CO2 capture equipment, and the water required to run them.

The findings suggest that the water shortage would make it impossible to cool all power plants. However, the result varied a lot based on the region.

What’s the takeaway from the study?

Agencies that plan and permit plants across developing Asia must evaluate the renewable water available near a proposed power plant before granting a permit. Although this may lead to a drop in the number of plants, it would be worth it in the long run.

Bielicki, who is also a co-author of the study noted:

“Some of the results of this study are saying, ‘hey, we expect you’re going to run into problems, so you should selectively change your plans, but also thin out your existing power plants because as you’re adding new power plants, you’re creating more competition for the water. Your economy needs water, but your ecosystems and people need water, too.'”

The researchers published their findings in the journal Energy and Environment Science.

Read More: New Water Purification Device Also Generates Electricity

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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