Wind power saves water

The problems caused by a lack of water are well documented – the difficulty of growing crops, of washing, of sheer survival in many areas of the world. Images of parched, cracked earth have become sadly familiar. Even in the affluent west, “water restrictions” are often put in place in the summer months to avoid a shortfall.

The global power sector is the largest industrial water user of all, yet this is chiefly due to water-guzzling fossil fuels and nuclear, while wind turbines uses less than nearly any other power generation technology, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) is emphasising on UN World Water Day (22 March).

Currently, 40% of the world lives in a “water-stressed area”, with the problem becoming more acute due to climate change, and to the growing demand for electricity. Accordingly, global water demand is expected to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030 if things continue “business-as-usual”.[1]

There is therefore a need to turn to power-generation sources which actively conserve water. Wind energy can do this, according to research carried out by wind turbine manufacturer Vestas.

Wind power can save more than 2,000 litres of water per MWh of electricity, and according to the US Department of Energy, 20% of wind power in the US power system by 2030 would save as much as 4 trillion gallons (15 trillion litres) of water[2]. This is equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 9 million US citizens.[3]

[1] 2030 Water Resource Group: Charting our water future – Economic frameworks to inform decision-making (2009)
[2] DOE: 20% wind energy by 2030 – Increasing wind energy’s contribution to US Electricity Supply (2008)
[3] Based on 1,600 m3/person/year. Source: Pacific Institute

By Sarah Azau,