What If Drought Forces Cooling Towers? How Much Will It Cost Power Consumers

Sometimes it takes a row to elicit information that is useful outside of the orginal context. Take the example of Wisconsin Energy Corp.'s ongoing construction of a $2.3 billion coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek, on the shore of Lake Michigan, just south of Milwaukee.

At issue is the water intake structure in Lake Michigan that would provide water to cool the plant. Environmental groups Clean Wisconsin and Sierra Club -- as well as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan -- oppose the structure. They say it relies on ld technology that would cause more damage to Lake Michigan fish than a modern system requiring cooling towers. The dispute over the plant was kept alive earlier this year when a federal appeals court threw out an Environmental Protection Agency rule that Wisconsin regulators relied on in approving the water intake structure. Discussion of the project came after Wisconsin Energy announced third-quarter earnings rose 17 percent,

Here's the money quote on how much extra might have to be spent for the 1,230-megawatt facility if open loop cooling water use is not permitted:-

Wisconsin Energy executives said plant construction would be delayed a year or more if the utility is required to spend $300 million to build cooling towers for the Oak Creek plant.

In order of magnitude, that's a quarter of a million dollars per megawatt, additional expense. Gives an indication of the types of investments that may be needed in drought prone regions where rivers and lakes periodically dry up. Obviously, the evaporative cooling water would have to come in as either wastewater effluent or well water during those times of extreme drought.

Note: Duke Energy in North Carolina USA is getting close to this hypothetical situation. Have a look at this UPI story for details.

Via::RedOrbit Breaking News, "Power Plant Concerns Analysts; Wisconsin Energy Executives Quizzed on Permit Dispute" Image credit::Jason Booth Charters, Oak Creek Plant from Lake Michigan

Tags: Coal | Drought | Milwaukee | Wisconsin

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