The Basics

Texas Energy-Water Simulator

There are a variety of ways to generate electricity and each of these has its own performance characteristics for water use, emissions, and cost. The table below shows cost and environmental performance data for the options used by the simulator. There are several cost-effective options to meet growing electricity demand while conserving water, reducing conventional air pollutants, and cutting carbon dioxide emissions (CO2).

Nuclear power uses the most water for cooling, followed by coal, natural gas, and solar photovoltaic (PV). Water use for coal, nuclear and natural gas is determined by how efficient the process is in turning heat into electricity -- the more efficient, the less waste heat needs to be removed and therefore less water required. Different cooling processes for each fuel also use different amounts of water. PV uses water to wash the panels, while wind doesn't use any water at all. “Coal w/ CCS” is coal with carbon capture and storage, which is an experimental technology. It is an energy- and water-intensive technology.

Notes:
a Taken from Macknick et al. 2011. Assumes tower/recirculating cooling.
b This is the total system levelized cost of energy derived from Lazard 2015.
c Wind and PV costs are unsubsidized.
d Molina 2014
For additional information see Faeth 2014.