Sandia LabNews

Sandia to conduct three workshops to gauge nation’s energy and water concerns

Sandia to conduct three workshops to gauge nation’s energy and water concerns

Sandia will conduct three national workshops over the next few months to gauge future energy and water concerns of water and electric utilities, environmental organizations, policy and regulatory groups, tribal groups, economic development organizations, government agencies, universities, research institutions, and others.

The information compiled at the meetings will be used in the development of a national science and technology roadmap looking 25 years into the future to help address major energy- and water-related issues facing the country. The roadmap will help identify both national and regional needs, issues, and gaps in technology, policy, and regulations related to the interdependency of energy and water that can be addressed through improved science and technology initiatives.

“People don’t realize that energy and water are interdependent,” says Mike Hightower, one of the Sandia researchers leading the roadmap effort. “Much of energy production is done with water, and water pumping and treatment require a lot of energy. Currently, electric power generation in the US accounts for almost 40 percent of all fresh water withdrawals, equivalent to the amount of water withdrawn for agriculture. While the water consumed by electric power generation is not as great as in agriculture, as fresh water resources become more scarce, we are seeing an increasing number of power plant applications across the country being denied because of a lack of available water resources.”

Mike adds that a major concern is the upward trend for electrical power use. Electricity use in the US is projected to increase 20 to 30 percent over the next 25 years. That will involve a greater demand for water, which is in limited supply in many regions, including the Southeast, Southwest, and the Pacific Coast.

Water ‘tapped out’ in some areas

“Water is already tapped out in these areas,” Mike says. “For the next 25 years US demand for electrical power will grow at a projected 30 percent rate, while the Southeast, Southwest, and the Pacific Coast are doubling their power needs. We are growing fastest in areas with limited water resources. To address the growing shortage of fresh water, we are turning to the use of impaired waters, like desalination and wastewater reuse, which are much more energy-intensive. This spiral of energy and water relationships is impacting the long-term energy security of the country.”

Sandia received $2 million from DOE to develop the roadmap. It must be completed by the end of fiscal year 2006. Coordinating the roadmap activity are a team of researchers from Centers 6100 and 6200 with additional technical support from representatives of all other DOE national laboratories.

Among concerns likely to be discussed and considered at the regional meetings are general lack of fresh water and impact on energy production and generation, cost of adhering to regulations, and policy issues.

Identifying, ranking solutions

Following the three regional meetings and subsequent data and gap analysis, a national Energy-Water Technology Innovations and Solutions Workshop will be held next spring to begin to identify and rank potential solutions and identify future science and technology directions, which will become the basis for the final roadmap. The final energy-water roadmap will summarize the identified needs, major gaps, innovative technical approaches and research needs, research and development priorities and strategies, and associated science-based policy evaluations.

Sandia is working collaboratively with several entities to develop the roadmap. These include an executive committee of national water and energy experts representing federal and state agencies and water and energy associations from around the country, and an advisory panel of DOE national laboratory representatives.