Thermal Power Plants – WE-Nexus and Environmental Impacts of Coal Power Plants

Many of us have seen many power stations and industries are built near water bodies, this is because they need the water in their production or need to get rid of their waste, or both. Here we can see how Water and Energy are connected to each other, both with positive or negative impacts. Here is an example of positive and negative impacts given only in a qualitative and descriptive way.

Understanding “Water-Energy Nexus” is a key issue in Applied Sustainability in terms of how transformation of energy, i.e. from fossil form to electricity, not only needs and consumes water but also creates environmental pollution. The emitted atmospheric pollutants and rest products, in this case, e.g. carbon dioxide (100%), sulphur oxide 8%, nitrogen oxide (data on extraction yield is not given), heavy metals such as Pb, Cu, Zn, Cd, ….. (information and data on removal are not given) and water vapor. These pollutants and rest products have negative impacts on the environment in terms of degradation in air, water and ecological qualities, e.g. acid rain that cause acidification of aquatic systems with negative impacts on lakes, rivers and marine coasts.

The life cycle of thermal power plants starts with coal mining, coal transport, coal pulverizing and coal burning (combustion of coal to produce heat and produce water vapor to run the turbines and generate electricity). As mineral coal has different levels of impurities and pollutants, such S, N, heavy metals and probably small amounts of radio-active elements, all these substances will turn to bi-production. The bi-products are not likely to be completely removed and some amounts will be released to the environment as is evident in many areas in China by the naked eye. The negative impacts of such pollution on air and water quality are very well documents in literature, however some countries have improved their production technologies and have strict protection rules what regards air, water and ecological qualities. Nevertheless, emissions of “green house” gases, causing “global warming”, is still a major global problem. The scape of water vapor from fossil-fuel based-power and industrial plants around the world introduces disturbances in natural water cycles and adds new uncertainties in modeling the water cycles. Water vapor is also a “green house”. At the same time, the emerging negative threats from “WE-nexus” on achieving socio-economic developments need further improvements and actions what regards WE-management policies.

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