Water Management and Solar Power
Renewable sources of energy have been making steady headway in the last few years. Energy sources such as solar and wind have found footing in the energy market. Solar power especially has seen rapid implementation across the world since 2014. This has come about through steady developments in technology and falling prices of high-quality solar panels. One of the most significant impacts of the growing popularity of renewable sources of energy has been seen on water reserves and water management.
Typical thermal power plants consume a lot of water not just for steam conversion but for various other accompanying processes such condensation in the cooling towers. Solar power, however, is aimed at the optimized use of water. It only uses water as a working fluid for operating the turbines. The water is heated and converted to steam using solar power, and the steam runs through the turbines generating electricity. Across the United States especially in the southwestern regions, solar energy is booming. Through the use of advanced technologies such as parabolic concentrators, a high amount of electricity can be generated. While solar power is relatively water free, in the use of these technologies such as CSP or concentrated solar power, condenser cooling is often required.
Water management in solar power generation
Solar power is geo-specific and is usually implemented in wide open regions with high concentration of sunlight. This makes arid regions perfect for setting up solar power units. Unfortunately, these regions are not always in the vicinity of water bodies. Since solar power requires water for operation (unlike wind energy) and for cooling, the geo-specific nature of this energy often poses challenges.
A lot of solar thermal power plants have turned towards dry cooling technologies in order to reduce their levels of water consumption. Common forms of dry cooling technology involve air-based cooling and air fin-based cooling systems. These technologies also have the added advantage of ensuring proper cooling of the complete water volume which makes them environmentally safe.
Air cooled technologies involve the hot steam coming in contact with air currents in counterflow. These opposing flows happen in numerous tube bundles, and there are parallel tube systems to collect the condensed water that is created. In air fin cooling systems, also known as air fin heat exchangers are a cost-effective and optimized way of using air to cool the steam from power plants. Due to the implementation of fins as a contact medium between the coolant (flow of air) and the heated steam, surface area for heat exchange is greatly increased. This causes faster cooling of steam with low powered fans. Such fin-based cooling systems are not only popular in power plants but other industries as well. The biggest advantage of these dry cooling systems is that they involve little maintenance when compared with traditional cooling technologies. They also provide very high thermal efficiencies and can easily replace cooling towers and such traditional water-based cooling systems.