In a report published by the International Atomic Energy Agency in November, announced their new report named Adapting the Energy Sector to Climate Change, the effects of both gradual and extreme climatic conditions on energy production are explored, as well as probable means of mitigating them. Nuclear power, renewable sources, fossil fuels, and the energy grid are among the energy sources explored in the paper. 

Thermal power sources include natural gas, coal, oil, and nuclear plants. They are most affected by hotter environmental temperatures and lower volumes, as well as warmer water in rivers and lakes used as coolants. To reduce the effect, alternate cooling options can be used, such as easier methods like non-traditional water sources, drying coal, and water obtained from reusing flue gases. More sophisticated and expensive coolant techniques include dry cooling.

With fossil fuel thermal power stations, the consequences of extreme weather events are numerous and may cause serious structural damage as well as financial loss. To ensure the continuous production of power even during severe weather, it is crucial to protect fossil fuels from floodwater, high winds, lightning, and extreme heat. Although extreme weather seldom affects nuclear power stations, these often affect the production of fossil fuels. Securing and reinforcement of houses, cooling facilities and other equipment is vital to protect from flooding, hurricanes and different extreme weather.

Hydroelectric power is mostly affected by the fluctuation of river volume and temperature caused by different levels of rain and atmospheric warmth. Run-of-river facilities, since they do not have dams, have lower construction costs, and consequently, return the capital faster. The majority of these are found in the Pacific Northwest and are more susceptible to weather changes, especially when fish and wildlife protection have to be taken into account.

Wind energy is also influenced by natural temperature changes, which result in changes in pressure differences, which dictate the wind speed. The lower air density induced by higher average air temperatures decreases energy output. 

For solar energy, gradual climate change would vary insolation and cloud cover, affecting power generation. The report notes that the most impacted is concentrated solar energy. These changes can be lessened by using a rougher surface on photovoltaic panels to best use diffuse light, improving the set mounting angle, and adding a tracking system to shift the angle for diffuse light conditions as well as increasing the storage capacity of solar power.

Prior events show that the grid is the weakest point during extreme weather events compared to power plants. Therefore, the most effective solution would be to harden the grid, have multiple redundancies among other structural changes.

This post was originally published on The Picayune Current