Research Ties Water Stress In Europe To Future Power Supplies

A new study in the publication Nature Energy says that an increasing number of water basins in Europe could suffer from resource stresses due to global warming, which in turn will strain generation capacities of power plants.

European River BasinsThe paper outlines two potential water uses in energy creation, noting that a shortage of water is one of the potential issues facing the industry, while a lack of cool water also changes the energy generation landscape, as large plants require water that is cool enough in adequate supplies to keep the plants running.

Researchers from the Netherlands estimate that as early as 2030, the number or stressed water basins – out of a total of 818 – could rise from 47 to 54. The study, reported Ars Technica, included data on the water needs of 1,326 thermoelectric power plants, including nuclear, coal and gas-fired plants.

The study calculates the water needs of each plant, noting that climate change will not only make water more scarce, but it will also make the available water warmer, making it less effective as a cooling agent for large power plants, some of which may need to be retrofit to allow for the use of salt water for cooling, rather than continue with fresh water.

Furthermore, the paper said, a repeat of droughts in Europe like those of 2003 and 2006 would, in future years, be accompanied by power shortages due to the lack of water available for cooling power plants.

Already, stress on water basins in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria has created strains on power supplies. “While future capacity is uncertain, this does indicate that our results should be viewed as a lower limit of vulnerability,” the researchers said.

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