The 'thirsty' water-electricity nexus: Field data on the scale and seasonality of thermoelectric power generation's water intensity in China

Daqian Jiang, Anuradha Ramaswami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is a lack of field data on the water withdrawal and consumption intensity of thermoelectric power plants in China. With China's ambitious electricity capacity expansion and ever-growing water deficit, the overlooked water dimension of thermoelectric power generation could soon have significant water sustainability implications, and field data on water intensity of thermoelectric power plants will be essential to further our understanding of China's water-electricity nexus. To address this knowledge gap, this paper presents field data on the water withdrawal intensity and water balance of 19 coal-fired power plants in Shandong, China, categorized by different generator capacities (<100 MW∼>600 MW) and boiler technologies (subcritical, supercritical and ultra supercritical). This paper suggests that the annual average water withdrawal intensity of coal-fired power plants in Shandong (1.50-3.75 L kWh-1) is within the range of values reported for other countries, and that the distinction between water withdrawal and water consumption effectively vanishes since very little water is returned from withdrawal. This paper also suggests that there is quite significant seasonality in power plants' water intensity whereby the water intensity in July can be approximately 15-28% higher than the annual average. The seasonality is on a similar scale across all generator capacities, except for a small co-generation plant (<100 MW), which had substantially lower water intensity in January when a heat exchanger was used to provide heating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024015
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume10
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Keywords

  • China
  • seasonality
  • thermoelectric power plants
  • water consumption
  • water intensity
  • water withdrawal
  • water-electricity nexus

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