According to the report, 44 percent of water usage in the European Union goes to energy production. That includes coal, nuclear, biofuels and natural gas, Europe’s four thirstiest energy industries. That’s almost half what is used in the next largest sector, agriculture, which is 24 percent.
Statistics released by the Union of Concerned Scientists paint a similar picture regarding U.S. usage, says the American Wind Energy Association. Between 60 and 170 billion gallons are withdrawn from lakes, rivers and other essential water sources every day for thermoelectric plants, whose temperatures are regulated by water. Although the amount that is actually consumed (lost) only ranges between 2.8 and 5.8 billion gallons, that still is significant, says the UCS.
“U.S. power plants withdrew enough freshwater each day in 2008 to supply 60 to 170 cities the size of New York.”
At a time when water security is a growing concern throughout the world, these are huge implications to consider, says the EWEA.
“In 2012, [wind] energy avoided the use of 1.2 billion m³ (317 billion gallons) of water in 2012, equivalent to the average annual household water use of 22 million EU citizens.” the EWEA says.
The AWEA has done its own calculations on the savings that were made from 140 million MWh of wind-generated power in the U.S. More than 30 billion gallons of water was saved using wind power that year instead of fossil-fuel generated power. That’s 97 gallons for every person in the U.S.
And last year’s savings? According to the AWEA’s website, the wind projects that were funded in part by tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Section 1603 in 2012 saved an estimated 35 billion gallons of water, or 120 gallons per person, in 2013.
“The power sector withdraws more water than any other sector in the United States, including the agricultural sector,” says the AWEA. “By displacing electricity generation from other sources, wind energy not only avoids CO2 emissions and pollutants, but also avoids water withdraws and consumption, preserving the water for other uses.”
Interestingly, no specific data was provided by either wind energy organization about the cost of water in hydraulic fracturing, which is outside the boundaries of the EWEA’s study, but would significantly add to withdrawal and consumption costs of producing energy from fossil fuels.
With World Water Day 2014 upon us (March 22), the implications of impending water shortages from climate change go beyond the question of the creature comforts of a developed nation such as daily showers, clean dishes and a vibrant garden. According to the EWEA and AWEA’s stats, conserving our water sources may soon become even more challenging in the face of a growing demand for energy generation to meet a growing world population. Wind and other renewable sources are looking better and better.
Illinois wind farm: Shock264