Analysis of drought impacts on electricity production in the Western and Texas interconnections of the United States.

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Electricity generation relies heavily on water resources and their availability. To examine the interdependence of energy and water in the electricity context, the impacts of a severe drought to assess the risk posed by drought to electricity generation within the western and Texas interconnections has been examined. The historical drought patterns in the western United States were analyzed, and the risk posed by drought to electricity generation within the region was evaluated. The results of this effort will be used to develop scenarios for medium- and long-term transmission modeling and planning efforts by the Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC) and ... continued below

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Harto, C. B.; Yan, Y. E.; Demissie, Y. K.; Elcock, D.; Tidwell, V. C.; Hallett, K. et al. February 9, 2012.

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Electricity generation relies heavily on water resources and their availability. To examine the interdependence of energy and water in the electricity context, the impacts of a severe drought to assess the risk posed by drought to electricity generation within the western and Texas interconnections has been examined. The historical drought patterns in the western United States were analyzed, and the risk posed by drought to electricity generation within the region was evaluated. The results of this effort will be used to develop scenarios for medium- and long-term transmission modeling and planning efforts by the Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). The study was performed in response to a request developed by the Western Governors Association in conjunction with the transmission modeling teams at the participating interconnections. It is part of a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored, national laboratory-led research effort to develop tools related to the interdependency of energy and water as part of a larger interconnection-wide transmission planning project funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This study accomplished three main objectives. It provided a thorough literature review of recent studies of drought and the potential implications for electricity generation. It analyzed historical drought patterns in the western United States and used the results to develop three design drought scenarios. Finally, it quantified the risk to electricity generation for each of eight basins for each of the three drought scenarios and considered the implications for transmission planning. Literature on drought impacts on electricity generation describes a number of examples where hydroelectric generation capacity has been limited because of drought but only a few examples of impact on thermoelectric generation. In all documented cases, shortfalls of generation were met by purchasing power from the market, albeit at higher prices. However, sufficient excess generation and transmission must be available for this strategy to work. Although power purchase was the most commonly discussed drought mitigation strategy, a total of 12 response strategies were identified in the literature, falling into four main categories: electricity supply, electricity demand response, alternative water supplies, and water demand response. Three hydrological drought scenarios were developed based on a literature review and historical data analysis. The literature review helped to identify key drought parameters and data on drought frequency and severity. Historical hydrological drought data were analyzed for the western United States to identify potential drought correlations and estimate drought parameters. The first scenario was a West-wide drought occurring in 1977; it represented a severe drought in five of the eight basins in the study area. A second drought scenario was artificially defined by selecting the conditions from the 10th-percentile drought year for each individual basin; this drought was defined in this way to allow more consistent analysis of risk to electricity generation in each basin. The final scenario was based upon the current low-flow hydro modeling scenario defined by WECC, which uses conditions from the year 2001. These scenarios were then used to quantify the risk to electricity generation in each basin. The risk calculations represent a first-order estimate of the maximum amount of electricity generation that might be lost from both hydroelectric and thermoelectric sources under a worst-case scenario. Even with the conservative methodology used, the majority of basins showed a limited amount of risk under most scenarios. The level of risk in these basins is likely to be amenable to mitigation by known strategies, combined with existing reserve generation and transmission capacity. However, the risks to the Pacific Northwest and Texas Basins require further study. The Pacific Northwest is vulnerable because of its heavy reliance on hydroelectric generation. Texas, conversely, is vulnerable because of its heavy dependence on thermoelectric generation, which relies on surface water for cooling, along with the fact that this basin seems to experience more severe drought events on average. Further modeling analysis will be performed in conjunction with the modeling teams at the participating interconnections (WECC and ERCOT) to explore the transmission implications of the drought scenarios in more detail. Given the first-order nature of this analysis, more detailed study of the potential impacts of drought on electricity generation is recommended. Future analyses should attempt to model the potential impacts of drought at the power-plant level, including potential mitigation strategies; include the effects of drought duration; understand the impacts of climate change; and consider economic impacts.

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  • Report No.: ANL/EVS/R-11/14
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-06CH11357
  • DOI: 10.2172/1035461 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1035461
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc834538

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  • February 9, 2012

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • May 23, 2016, 6:34 p.m.

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Harto, C. B.; Yan, Y. E.; Demissie, Y. K.; Elcock, D.; Tidwell, V. C.; Hallett, K. et al. Analysis of drought impacts on electricity production in the Western and Texas interconnections of the United States., report, February 9, 2012; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc834538/: accessed October 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.