Today is World Water Day, and a good day to remember something I've discussed here on more than one occasion: wind power conserves water supplies, because it uses very little water compared with all energy sources (coal, gas, nuclear) that use heat to generate electricity.
The power sector is the one of the world’s biggest consumers of water. All fossil fuels and nuclear power need significant quantities of water for such uses as pumping fuel out of the ground, removing pollutants from power plant exhausts, flushing residues after fossil fuels are burned and cooling.
In a landmark report published in 2008 under the George W. Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy examined the effects of generating 20 percent of U.S electricity with wind power by 2030. One of its findings: 4 trillion gallons of water, equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 9 million Americans, would be saved.
A recent report from the 2030 Water Resources Group, a consortium of private companies working with the World Bank, recently reported that, "By 2030, under an average economic growth scenario and if no efficiency gains are assumed, global water requirements would grow from 4,500 billion cubic meters today (or 4,500 cubic kilometers) to 6,900 billion cubic meters … [T]his is a full 40 percent above current accessible, reliable supply … This global figure is really the aggregation of a very large number of local gaps, some of which show an even worse situation: one-third of the population, concentrated in developing countries, will live in basins where this deficit is larger than 50 percent … "
With the issue of water supply looming ahead–and already a serious matter in the western U.S.–there's no time like the present to ramp up water conservation efforts, and no better way to do that in the power sector than by increasing our use of wind power.
Related articles on AWEA's Into the Wind Blog:
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)