COP 20 Giles Dickson (Alstom) ~ Thermal Power Technology Systems and High Water Footprint

Alstom Exec. Vice President, Mr Giles Dickson, speaks on Thermal Power technology systems and reducing High Water footprints at COP 20 conference, Lima, and addresses three main issues related to thermal power and water for effective solutions, viz; Extremes, Averages and Water.

Extreme disasters and weather phenomena increases in the last decade such as Fukushima nuclear plant disaster (2011), hurricanes Sandy, Ivy, Katrina, etc. and the Orwellian climate phenomena are having serious impacts on the environment and global technology systems due to climate change worldwide.  The averages like higher average water temperatures, higher average ambient air temperatures, etc. are all too common in today’s world and the IEA has concluded in a recent report that just 1 degree celsius increase in ambient air temperatures will affect the efficiency of thermal turbines in coal/nuclear plants, in such a way, that by year 2040, plants will be operating in summer at peak temperatures with 19% less efficiency than today.  Water – Energy production processes globally account for 15% of all fresh water withdrawals and 11% of all fresh water consumptions annually, with Biofuels having the highest water consumption rate due to vast crop areas requiring irrigation to produce bio-fuels.

Alstom as a technology company are dealing with these and other related issues, some key areas we are currently focusing on are renewables – in general, equipment is being manufactured to be more resilient, e.g. wind turbines rely very heavily on lubricants to keep moving parts functioning optimally, hence we are designing new lubricants that can withstand a wider range of temperatures on both extremes, as well as turbine braking technology, which is crucial to the operation of the wind turbines. This also translates to transmission networks that are extremely vulnerable during extreme weather events and by using sensors in the transmission networks, (power electronics technology), it gives us more data flow information on their performance and allows us, crucially, to do predictive maintenance.
Technologies for the reduction of  thermal power plant water footprints and more efficient water recycling are also major focuses for us with the environmental impact being at the forefront of our developing technology.

Governments worldwide should be reviewing and considering wider resilience factors, such as, encouraging infrastructure operators to locate their infrastructures increasingly in climate resilient locations and using government policy to push investments in that direction.  Also, water pricing, although a consideration, would not necessarily work, as water is unlike CO2 and the availability varies greatly from one area to another, so the approach to water consumption has to be much more regional than CO2, which clearly is a much more global commodity.

What is clear, is that the availability of water is already a big factor in determining decisions about where power plants are located – ‘It’s about Availability rather than the Price of Water’!

Further reading – follow links :  Fukushima Nuclear Accident documentary

Interview with Giles Dickson: EWEA and COP21

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