Nearly 139 billion gallons of freshwater is withdrawn from the environment every day for cooling purposes, making it the single largest use of fresh water in the nation. A significant fraction of this water is dissipated to the atmosphere, where it is no longer available for use. As resources become constrained, it is critical that power plants transition from evaporative cooling to dry air cooling and stop the withdrawal of water from surrounding lakes and rivers.
To address this problem, the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-e recently announced that its Advanced Research in Dry Cooling program will provide $30 million to support 14 project teams in developing innovative power plant cooling technologies that eliminate the use of water.
As one of the 14 projects selected, Dr. Bandhauer and his team, which includes Barber-Nichols and Modine Manufacturing Co., will develop an Ultra-Efficient Turbo-Compression Cooling system over the course of three years. Dr. Bandhauer proposes that this supplemental cooling system provides a viable, cost-effective path towards implementing dry-air power plant cooling on a large scale.
The new cooling system utilizes low grade waste heat from the exhaust flue gases to cool the power plant condenser. This employs transformational highly-efficient turbo-compressor, and low-cost, high-performance heat exchanger technology. This thermally-driven cooling system has no impact on the power plant efficiency and increases the cost of electricity by less than 2.8%, while enabling dry air cooling technologies that eliminate the use of fresh water. The proposed system exhibits disruptive technology advances that will ensure the U.S. maintains a technological edge in water-free cooling technologies for electrical power generation.
“Using water to cool power plants diverts a precious resource from water intensive activities like food production that are important to humanity. Unfortunately, only a very small fraction of power plants in the U.S. are cooled with dry air because existing systems cost so much to implement.
Our team is working on a ground-breaking and scalable technology that uses available low grade waste heat to reduce the amount of cooling load in power plants so that dry air systems can be made smaller and cheaper.
We are excited that ARPA-e has recognized this opportunity and has expressed interest in our research,” Dr. Bandhauer added.