Researchers have found that rivers act as the natural “horizontal cooling towers” for thermoelectric power plants but it needs attention to take care of its environment from the artificial disturbing sources.
Environmental Research Letters
In thermoelectric power plants, water is boiled to create steam to produce electricity by driving turbines. This raises the temperature and to cut the temperature, water is withdrawn and evaporated either in cooling towers or returned to the river at high temperatures. Researchers found that rivers help to cut the added heats by acting as horizontal cooling towers as water flows downstream.
According to the researchers’ estimations, the amount of heat that has been moved to the rivers only slightly more than 11% move to the atmosphere while the rest move to the coastal waters and oceans.
“We were surprised to find that relatively little of the heat to rivers is exchanged back to the atmosphere,” Wilfred Wollheim, an assistant professor and co-director of the Water Systems Analysis Group at EOS, said in a statement.
“Reliance on riverine ecosystem services to dispense waste heat alters temperature regimes, which impacts fish habitat and other aquatic ecosystem services,” Wollheim added.
Although, river acts helps in cooling the added heat but it has a “considerable” impact on fish habitat and environment.
“We can better understand the unintended consequences to other ecosystem services as we rely on rivers to support generation of electricity. Integrative, regional approaches will be needed to help plan as society adapts to changing climate and hydrology while demand for power continues to increase,” Wollheim added.
Stewart, R., Wollheim, W., Miara, A., Vörösmarty, C., Fekete, B., Lammers, R., & Rosenzweig, B. (2013). Horizontal cooling towers: riverine ecosystem services and the fate of thermoelectric heat in the contemporary Northeast US Environmental Research Letters, 8 (2) DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/025010