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Modeling the Impacts of Solar Distributed Generation on U. S. Water Resources

[+] Author Affiliations
Amanda D. Smith, Jaron J. Peck

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Olufemi A. Omitaomu

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

Paper No. POWER2015-49618, pp. V001T02A004; 10 pages
  • ASME 2015 Power Conference collocated with the ASME 2015 9th International Conference on Energy Sustainability, the ASME 2015 13th International Conference on Fuel Cell Science, Engineering and Technology, and the ASME 2015 Nuclear Forum
  • ASME 2015 Power Conference
  • San Diego, California, USA, June 28–July 2, 2015
  • Conference Sponsors: Power Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5660-4
  • Copyright © 2015 by ASME


Distributed electric power generation technologies typically use little or no water per unit of electrical energy produced; in particular, renewable energy sources such as solar PV systems do not require cooling systems and present an opportunity to reduce water usage for power generation. Within the US, the fuel mix used for power generation varies regionally, and certain areas use more water for power generation than others. The need to reduce water usage for power generation is even more urgent in view of climate change uncertainties. In this paper, we present an example case within the state of Tennessee, one of the top four states in water consumption for power generation and one of the states with little or no potential for developing centralized renewable energy generations. The potential for developing PV generation within Knox County, Tennessee, is studied, along with the potential for reducing water withdrawal and consumption within the Tennessee Valley stream region. Electric power generation plants in the region are quantified for their electricity production and expected water withdrawal and consumption over one year, where electrical generation data is provided over one year and water usage is modeled based on the cooling system(s) in use. Potential solar PV electrical production is modeled based on LiDAR data and weather data for the same year. Our proposed methodology can be summarized as follows: First, the potential solar generation is compared against the local grid demand. Next, electrical generation reductions are specified that would result in a given reduction in water withdrawal and a given reduction in water consumption, and compared with the current water withdrawal and consumption rates for the existing fuel mix. The increase in solar PV development that would produce an equivalent amount of power, is determined. In this way, we consider how targeted local actions may affect the larger stream region through thoughtful energy development. This model can be applied to other regions, other types of distributed generation, and used as a framework for modeling alternative growth scenarios in power production capacity in addition to modeling adjustments to existing capacity.

Copyright © 2015 by ASME



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