Coal-fired power plants utilize significant quantities of both coal and water for generating electrical energy.
Coal-fired power plants utilize significant quantities of both coal and water for generating electrical energy. For example, a 500 MW power plant burns approximately 250 tons per hour of coal while using over 12 million gallons per hour of water for cooling and other process requirements.
As U.S. population and associated economic development continues to expand, the demand for electricity will increase. The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest forecast estimates U.S. coal-fired generating capacity will grow from approximately 305 GW in 2003 to 389 GW in 2025.2 As such, coal-fired power plants may increasingly compete for freshwater with other sectors such as domestic, commercial, agricultural, industrial, and in-stream use – particularly in regions of the country with limited freshwater supplies. In addition, current and future water-related environmental regulations and requirements will also challenge the operation of existing power plants and the permitting of new thermoelectric generation projects.