DOE: Rising temperatures increase line losses, disrupt power plants

The rising temperatures associated with climate change can pose a problem for electric power delivery, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

In a new report released as part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the DOE states that while the effects of climate change will vary in intensity across the country, no area will be unaffected by rising temperatures.

Because of rising air and water temperatures, higher sea levels and drought conditions, the U.S. is at a higher risk for power plants shutting down. In higher temperatures, transmission lines operate less effectively and electricity customers use more power to run air conditioners, pulling harder on the power grid.

Also, power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems face increasing risks of physical damage from the hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more frequent and intense, according to the DOE.

The DOE published an interactive map on their website showing how climate change has affected the U.S. power grid and its fleet of power plants. (click here to view the map)

High temperatures and drought conditions can affect power generation and delivery in a multitude of ways. According to the DOE’s report:

·      Less water for cooling plants: 60 percent of the nation’s thermal power plants that require water for cooling purposes are located in water-stressed areas that have recently been hit by droughts.

·      Less water for hydropower: Lighter snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2012 caused an 8 percent drop in California’s hydropower capacity. At Hoover Dam, low water levels at Lake Mead fell caused a 23 percent drop in that dam’s power generation.

·      Less nuclear capacity: At Connecticut’s Millstone Nuclear Power Station, a reactor had to be taken offline because the temperature of the water in Long Island Sound was too warm to be used to cool the plant.

·      More demand on the grid: In hotter weather, customers use more electricity to cool their housing and businesses. A study by the DOE Argonne National Laboratory found that peak demand during hot weather could require the power output of 100 additional power plants.

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