A Novel Solution to Improve the Water-Energy Nexus in Thermo-Electric Power Plants via an Electrostatically Assisted Technique
Christopher Chong
David Thompson Secondary
Floor Location : S 070 N

With the World Health Organization declaring that nearly 1.1 billion people are without safe drinking water globally, it is crucial to innovate and develop new sustainable methods of water conservation. In the US and Europe, nearly 50% of all water withdrawals are for the energy production of thermoelectric plants (in the form of cooling water), and in China, this number is at 84%. Additional energy is required to treat and purify cooling water before discharge, further reducing the efficiency of energy production. This cannot continue with the rising pressure from the general public to conserve precious water, especially during times of drought and heatwaves. Traditionally, most power plants use evaporative cooling towers, which convert most of the water used into vapor, and it is expelled and lost. Excess water becomes contaminated with pollutants and requires treatment to meet the potable standards of water set by the World Health Organization. However, the water expelled as vapor is pure and clean, but current recovery methods in cooling towers are virtually non-existent. By combining the components and concepts behind existing fog harvesters (the collecting mesh) and electrostatic precipitators (the high-voltage electrical element), I was able to create an innovative yet novel solution which could save the power plant industry hundreds of millions of gallons of water annually. By using this system, thermo-electric power plant can significantly reduce water consumption and operation costs all at once, providing a new source of clean drinking water to surrounding communities, or even re-implement this water into the cooling cycle. This system would prevent plants from getting shut down or even having to curb energy generation due to plume regulations, as it reduces plume expelled by a significant margin. Experiments ranging from 10 minutes to several hours which varied the different aspects and components of the device showed efficiencies of 70%-80%. If implemented into a 600MW Plant, it could capture 130-160 million gallons of water annually, only consuming around 10-15kW in electricity, or 10-12 thousand dollars a year. The energy consumption per 1000 liters of water was found to be around 2 kWh, in comparison to the current desalination method's energy consumption of 4-5 kWh per 1000 liters. It could also be applied to dramatically increase the efficiency of fog harvesting systems, which currently collect water at efficiencies of only 2-3%, operating in coastal areas where water transportation is costly, and rainfall is infrequent.