Research Papers: Energy Systems Analysis

Recommendations for Energy–Water–Food Nexus Problems

[+] Author and Article Information
Kaufui Vincent Wong, Charles Pecora

Department of Mechanical
and Aerospace Engineering,
University of Miami,
Coral Gables, FL 33146

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received April 18, 2014; final manuscript received June 18, 2014; published online March 5, 2015. Editor: Hameed Metghalchi.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 137(3), 032002 (May 01, 2015) (5 pages) Paper No: JERT-14-1120; doi: 10.1115/1.4028139 History: Received April 18, 2014; Revised June 18, 2014; Online March 05, 2015

Around the world, climate change has brought about seemingly more incidences of climate extremes. Sub-Saharan Africa is a prime example of a region with many countries suffering from water scarcity. Water scarcity is quite possibly the most important issue that exists, seeing as it is the one essential resource for humans and all other life. Water scarcity in this region is somewhat ironic because of the numerous freshwater rivers that run throughout the region. The main reason for this water problem is the mismanagement and lack of energy required to redistribute the water. The water issue is inevitably linked to both energy resources and food resources. Water is the basis for all agriculture and is required for livestock. Water is also needed for almost any type of energy conversion. In a fossil fuel power plant, water is both the working fluid of the system and the coolant used in the condenser. In dams, the potential stored in flowing water is the basis of the creation of energy. Water, conversely, requires power to be transported and treated for drinking and agriculture. Sub-Saharan Africa has nearly maximized the energy of its large rivers, thus new sources of energy must be implemented to help with the energy crisis. A couple of the possibilities are fossil fuel power plants, geothermal power plants, and solar panels. Solar panels require a large amount of capital to build, but are nearly free to maintain, and can be cheaper in the long run. Solar power is an undeniably renewable resource and does not adversely affect the environment. Solar power can be utilized both for electricity generation and for irrigation and cooking in remote communities. Geothermal power plants utilize the potential stored in the earth's crust in places with volcanic activity. East Africa has an especially large potential for geothermal energy due to its many volcanoes. As for thermal power plants, combined cycle power plants paired with a salt water cooling system would greatly improve efficiency and drastically decrease water usage. By replacing Rankine cycle power plants that are used in most of Sub-Saharan Africa with either combined cycle plants or gas cycle plants, efficiencies would improve and far less water for cooling would be used in the system.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Location of current geothermal power plants in Africa [16]

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Location of volcanic activity in Africa. Shaded region contains significant volcanic activity [18].

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Annual solar energy distribution in Africa. The lightest regions receive about 205.2 MW/m2 and the darkest regions receive about 273.6 MW/m2 [10].



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