Water and Wind

Wind energy uses no water.  It heats no water.  It is a largely unrecognized value of wind in the Great Lakes region, which thinks it has unlimited supply of fresh water.

The Pickering plant had to shut one of its reactors yesterday.  Apparently the warm summer has resulted in an algae bloom that has jammed its intake for water cooling.  They say it will be back on line in a few days.

We take water for granted.  Our nuclear and coal plants are located on Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the slow moving St. Clair River.   We use water from these water bodies to cool the reactors and boilers.  In fact, 2/3 of the energy made by these plants is lost in the cooling process – only 1/3 is turned into usable electricity, and the balance of the heat is sent into the lake.
Lake Superior, an important water source for all of the Lakes, has dropped by 30 cm this year, and is within a few cm of an all time low.  And its surface temperature is 4.7 degrees F higher than it was just decades ago.  Warm water evaporates more quickly, and delays the formation of ice cover.  Ice is crucial to preserving water levels, as winter evaporation, which makes for huge showfalls in places like Barrie and Kincardine, removes a lot of water from the lakes.  This water recharges aquifers, or leaves the Great Lakes water shed, which means it doesn’t return to the Lake in many cases.
Lakes Huron and Michigan are also low.  Great Lakes ships are only filling to 90% of their capacity, as some channels are too low to allow full loads.

While the Great Lakes have a normal cycle, where water levels rise and fall, the trend has been down for the upper Great Lakes for 20 years.  There is speculation that climate change may have something to do with it.  More than 1/3 of the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times has occured in the past 20 years, so the impact of climate change is just beginning to be felt.

It seems to me we need to get more of our energy from sources that don’t use, or don’t heat water.  This may be more important than we know.

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