River Regulation Alleviates the Impacts of Climate Change on U.S. Thermoelectricity Production

Xiao Zhang, Hong‐Yi Li, L. Ruby Leung, Lu Liu, Mohamad I. Hejazi, Barton A. Forman, Wondmagegn Yigzaw

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JD031618

Climate change is projected to elevate stream temperature and poses threats to thermoelectric power generation. Although two thirds of the global rivers are regulated by dams, the impacts of river regulation on stream temperature and thermoelectricity production have not been evaluated in previous studies. Using a state‐of‐the‐art integrated water cycle model and a power generation model, we quantify the impacts of river regulation on stream temperature and usable capacity of once‐through thermoelectric power in the United States. Our study demonstrates that by lowering stream temperature and increasing water availability during the low‐flow season, river regulation can curtail the loss of summer power plant usable capacity induced by climate change. The alleviation of power loss by water management is comparable to that resulting from emission mitigation that reduces warming in the future. Our new findings highlight the necessity of incorporating water management effects in thermoelectric power vulnerability assessment.

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