In a white paper entitled “Water may top the case for renewables,” Mr. Liebreich comments, “The other critical issue missing from the U.S. presidential election battle is water–particularly as U.S. Drought Monitor reports that nearly two-thirds of the nation is now suffering from moderate to exceptional drought conditions.”©
“Coal, gas and nuclear power generation all use large amounts of water. Of these, nuclear is the thirstiest – though many plants are on the coast, using seawater rather than fresh water. Our analysts reckon that a U.S. combined-cycle gas turbine plant of around 450 megawatts could consume 74 million cubic metres [19.5 billion gallons] of water over its lifetime, and a coal-fired power station of 1.3 gigawatts no less than 1.4 billion cubic meters [369 billion gallons]. The latter figure is seven times the annual water consumption of Paris.”©
“By contrast, wind and PV generation use very little water.”
Mr. Liebreich notes that on several occasions, issue related to heat waves or drought have forced the shutdown of some nuclear power plants in Europe, the U.S., and India. Also, he says, energy planners must face the possibility that water pricing will, at some point, become “rational,” and that the variety of subsidies which currently insulate water consumers will be withdrawn or eliminated. This, he adds, would have a significant impact on the comparative cost of different energy sources.
Mr. Liebreich also takes the time to debunk a recent claim by oil and gas magnate Charles Koch in the Wall Street Journal about wind energy's supposed high cost (see “Fact check: Charles Koch gets it wrong on wind power's cost,” September 12), stating that Mr. Koch's contention is unsupported by evidence and that wind power is currently competitive with the cost of power from new coal-fired power plants.
Opinion: Considering wind power and water use in Nebraska, August 24, 2012
On World Water Day 2012, a reminder: Use wind, save water, March 22, 2012
Saving water and reducing carbon: How Texas is doing both, November 30, 2011
New report highlights power plant stress on freshwater supplies in Southeast, November 21, 2011
Think tank: Water needs may limit shale gas, some renewables, June 29, 2011
Water anxiety? Wind power can help, June 16, 2011
Report sees water as utility investment risk factor, October 27, 2010
Use wind, save water, September 20, 2010
20% Wind Energy by 2030 Summary Presentation (pdf)
The Wind/Water Nexus, U.S. Department of Energy fact sheet, 2006 (pdf)