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04 Jan 2016: More than Half of Power Plants
Could be Hampered by Climate Change

Toba Montrose hydroelectric project

Alterrapower/Wikimedia Commons
Canada's Toba Montrose hydroelectric project
More than 60 percent of the world's power plants could be hampered by changes in climate and water distribution by the middle of the century, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Hydropower plants and thermoelectric power plants — nuclear, fossil-, and biomass-fueled plants that convert heat to electricity — rely on freshwater from rivers and streams to produce energy and effectively cool equipment. Together, these types of power plants produce 98 percent of the world's electricity, the researchers note. Changes in climate that lead to water shortages and increased water temperatures will affect electricity generation in some regions more than others — the U.S., southern South America, southern Africa, and parts of Europe are particularly vulnerable, says lead researcher Michelle Van Vliet of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She notes that adaptation measures focused on making power plants more efficient and flexible — such as switching from freshwater cooling to air or seawater cooling — could mitigate much of the decline.


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