U.S. Could Site 952 GW of New Capacity, Water Use & Plant Footprints Considered

A study conducted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and released by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on Tuesday shows that enough physical and geographical locations exist in the U.S. to site 952 GW of new advanced coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS), dry-cooled and water-cooled concentrating solar power (CSP), and large and small nuclear reactors. The study also suggests that plant siting opportunities exist for compressed air energy storage (CAES) in 38% of the U.S.

The study, “Application of Spatial Data Modeling and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for Identification of Potential Siting Options for Various Electrical Generation Sources,” stems from the national lab’s development of a dynamic visualization database, OR-SAGE (Oak Ridge Siting Analysis for Power Generation Expansion). That tool essentially uses industry-accepted approaches to develop appropriate criteria for screening sites, employing an array of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data sources at ORNL to identify candidate areas for a power generation technology application.

“We think the greatest value from this report and from future use of ORNL’s model will be in support of long-term strategic planning at the national level, as it relates to national energy security, environmental protection, and prudent use of natural resources, particularly water,” said Francisco de la Chesnaye, EPRI’s Energy and Environment Analysis program manager. “It will also provide critical input to regional generating capacity needs as a function of population growth and electricity demand and reliability.”

According to ORNL, OR-SAGE basically divides the contiguous U.S. into 100 x 100 (1-hectare) meter squares, making up just under 700 million cells. “If a cell meets the requirements of each criterion, the cell is deemed a candidate area for siting a specific power generation form relative to a reference plant for that power type,” the report says. Study parameters disqualified siting power plants on certain cells due to environmental, regulatory, or land-use constraints, or due to their closeness to hazardous operations.

Screening of candidate sites also included critical assumptions such as a supply of cooling water and methodologies to provide adequate siting footprints for typical power plant applications (taking into account population increases and demands on freshwater source changes). All cooling was assumed to be provided by a closed-cycle cooling system requiring makeup water to account for evaporation and blowdown. “Limited evaluations of shoreline cooling and the use of municipal processed water (gray) cooling were performed,” the study says.

The study suggests, using these calculations, that sufficient stream flow cooling is available to support the placement of 515 GW in large reactor plants. At least 10 GW of new large nuclear facilities can be sited in U.S. states with no siting challenges, it says. Another 201 GW of small reactor plants can be sited with sufficient stream flow cooling.

OR-SAGE estimates a plant capacity for 216 GW(e) for new advanced coal generation. For plants with scrubbing and carbon capture, this estimate would be pared down to 158 GW. “The states with the strongest projection for advanced coal plant installations and capacity are Montana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia,” the study says.

Sites could support an additional 60 GW of dry-cooled and 18 GW of water-cooled CSP plants. These would be mostly limited to California, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Texas also show CSP plant siting capacity, the study says.

The combined CAES plant siting opportunities based on all geological storage methods are 38% (645 million acres) of the contiguous U.S. land, much of which is in the middle of the country. “Most states show at least some siting capacity,” the study says. “This includes regions where solar and wind generation is viable. Using solar and wind generation for air compression in a CAES plant would provide a reasonable energy storage mechanism.”

The EPRI-funded study is part of an ongoing multiphase effort to address several key questions related to the U.S. power supply. ORNL says in the report that the initial phase of the study examined nuclear power generation, the results of which were shared with EPRI and which “formed the genesis and support for an expansion of the work to several other power generation forms, including advanced coal with CCS, solar, and CAES. Wind or gas generation was not included in this scope of work for EPRI.

Sources: POWERnews, EPRI, ORNL

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