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Alternative management strategies for hydropower and geothermal development are myriad. This study does not attempt to evaluate or even summarize the many schemes which are possible. In an era of plentiful natural resources, economic analysis procedures for selecting a particular alternative have been developed which traditionally have tended to optimize on the basis of capital and labor. The approach taken in this study is based on the notion of optimum deployment of finite resources. A legitimate question which this study has attempted to address is: Does the construction of large water management facilities, such as hydropower dams, which involve huge amounts of energy, concrete, and steel, constitute an efficient use of basic resources? An energy accounting analysis technique is proposed, and using this procedure energy resource inputs are examined and compared for specific hydropower dams and geothermal power plants. The technique, though promising, still contains certain problems, and further development is needed in order to establish a consistent and uniform methodology. The energy accounting technique indicates that construction of hydropower facilities is a relatively efficient use of basic energy resources. However, because of large evaporation losses from storage reservoirs, water consumption per unit of power produced tends to be high. An analysis subsequent to the energy accounting approach suggests that combining once-through cooling of thermal power plants with pumped storage hydropower facilities could produce large water savings per unit of generated power. Further study of this configuration is recommended. The energy accounting technique also clearly identifies the high efficiency of geothermal power plants in terms of resource deployment. However, warm water geothermal resources of the type generally available in the intermountain region present formidable problems in utilization. The report proposes a he at exchange r system design which is capable of utilizing warm and highly mineralized waters, and recommends that the design be constructed and tested on a demonstration basis.


Publication made available electronically April 27, 2012.