Water Shortage, Critical for Non-Wind Power

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Thermal power systems are based upon what is known as the Rankin cycle. Often, steam is used to power turbines, but then it must be cooled to become liquid. Coal, Nuclear, or even solar power could be used to heat the steam, but tremendous amounts of water are usually required for cooling. In many places, that water is in very short supply or essential for our domestic water needs and agriculture. A shortage of water would require such power stations operate at less than full capacity.

Water Intensities of Power Generation (m3/MWh). PV – Photovoltaic; CSP – Concentrated Solar Power; NGCC – Natural Gas Combined Cycle; CT – Cooling Tower; CCS – Carbon Capture and Storage; PC – Pulverized Coal (Source: Vestas).

Steve Sawyer, Secretary General to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC,) says, “”The global power sector is the largest industrial water user, and it has to start addressing the issue of water consumption, especially in the light of rising electricity demand, and increasing droughts created by the world’s changing climate … “To mitigate climate change, the power sector not only needs to become CO2 free, but also dramatically reduce its water consumption.” U.N. World Water Day is held annually on March 22, and in partnership with the GWEC, stresses the benefits of wind technology. Alternatives also exist in the form of Photovoltaics and Solar updraft towers (a huge solar, wind machine.)

Vestas, a leading wind turbine manufacturer, produced a new video aimed at increasing the number of wind turbines in our energy mix closer to 20%. US Department of Energy estimates that 20% of wind power in the US power system by 2030 would save as much as 4 trillion gallons (15 trillion litres) of water.

Conventional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants make up 78% of global electricity production. Should they be unable to provide the necessary power due to increased water shortages, economic collapse may not be far behind.

Photo of dry earth via Flickr user outofideas
Photo of windmills via Flickr user Everyspoon

For additional reading:

  1. Water & Energy Facts (Blog Action Day on Water)
  2. Tiny Federal Program Will Save Enough Water to Supply a City
  3. Dirty Energy’s Waste Water Can Generate Clean Power
  4. Could Wind help Save Water?
  5. Preventing National Electricity-Water Crisis Areas in the United States

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