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Power-Plant Cooling: How Many Fish Per kWh?

EPA flounders on the Clean Water rule, while producers tackle the real enemy—shortage.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2005

in getting everything ready.”

Kerry Whelan, a principal with Reliant, echoes Long’s comments.

“Most of the recent activity in California,” he notes, “has been a result of re-licensing projects by other entities where they are expanding or modifying existing intakes or creating new intakes. And that work has been subject to review by the California Energy
Commission.”

Referring to Reliant’s power facilities at Mandalay Beach, and Ormond Beach in Oxnard, Calif., Whelan says, “For us and for our process we’re working closely with the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board. … They’re trying to understand what their role is. There are areas of ambiguity in the regulation that we’re talking about together and that we’re talking about with EPA headquarters.

“How do you proceed when there’s this sort of cloud over the regulation? The answer is, if you’re a regulated entity you have to proceed, but it does raise some issues schedule-wise. These are general things that we see. … None of that is really unique to California.”

The Future of Cooling Technology

Referring to Reliant Energy’s newer Nevada gen plants (El Dorado and Big Horn, located southeast and southwest, respectively, from Las Vegas), Long says, “I think the reason they went to dry cooling … was strictly water supply and use of water.

“If your facility has cooling towers or does not have once-through cooling, then you’re basically off the hook for Phase II of 316b,” Long says.

“So if I was going to build a new plant, I would probably not even think about it or and wouldn’t even want to go there with once-through cooling because of all this. It would be easier to just go ahead and throw in cooling towers.”

“With El Dorado in the design stage, water supply was coming from Lake Mead. To minimize water use (they) went with the air cool condenser. As far as the wastewater permitting side of it, it was set up where everything would go into evaporation ponds. Big Horn was similar except their water supply was coming from wastewater from a casino just up the road.”

According to EPRI’s Zammit, the Big Horn and El Dorado sites mark just two of a handful of new power plants that are representative of new building trends in the West. These newer facilities tend to be combined-cycle, natural-gas-fired plants. With approximately two-thirds of the energy from these plants generated by gas turbines, the potential load for dry cooling already is cut by two-thirds over a traditional simple-cycle plant. The remaining one-third of the plant capacity is generated by Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSG) and traditional steam turbines that can be cooled by existing once-through wet-cooling towers (typically for re-powering only), or air-cooled condensers.

Other designs also are in the works. An air permit application was filed with the EPA (Region 9) for plans for a design not seen before in the United States. The Dine Power Authority (DPA) has contracted with Steag Power (a German company recently purchased by Sithe Global) to develop an electric power generation facility on the Navajo Nation called