Open Access
Garcia, Ismael
Graduate Program:
Energy and Mineral Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
June 12, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Mort D Webster, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Seth Adam Blumsack, Committee Member
  • Karen Ann Fisher-Vanden, Committee Member
  • water
  • WECC
  • vulnerability
  • drought
  • optimization
  • power system
  • high temperature
  • sensitivity
  • electricity
  • opf
Among the consequences of climate change, water scarcity and temperature rise are the main concerns for the power industry. More than 80% of the Western U.S. electric power system's total production for the year 2015 came from water-dependent generators (gas, coal, nuclear, and hydro). The potential for future droughts and high temperatures have lead the power sector to prepare to mitigate these effects. The purpose of this work is to explore the vulnerabilities of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) power system on water-dependent thermal generators (non-hydro). It is important to take into account that hydro power plants are not considered in this analysis as potential shut down generation, and I am only exploring the system vulnerability to thermal plants. I divide the western U.S. into five sub regions and model the power system using a simplified 300-bus representation of the network. I apply an Optimal Power Flow (OPF) model to a base case scenario using historical data from the year 2014, including hourly demand and hourly production from renewable generation. I then simulate a broad range of scenarios in which a subset of the thermal generators that require water for cooling are unavailable. I simulate three types of scenarios: 1) Scenarios in which a given total capacity of thermal generation in a sub region is unavailable due to lack of cooling water; 2) Scenarios in which all generators in a specific technology class are unavailable, and 3) Scenarios in which all generators along a given body of water are unavailable. For each of these cases, I present the system response in terms of the cost increase, measures of non-served energy, and the spatial distribution of the generators that compensate. A key result is that the states that are most vulnerable to impacts from water limitations are CA, NV, AZ, NM, UT, and CO. Regions 1 (WA, OR, and ID) and 2 (MT and WY) show little impact on the system’s vulnerability but the inclusion of hydro generation variable will be critical to the analysis.