Wind energy key to ‘€2.4bn EU water savings’

Wind power plays a major role in helping the EU save vast amounts of water used by power stations used to generate energy, a new report claims.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) calculated out of all the water used directly and indirectly in the EU, the highest amount (44%) is used in power production – 4.5 billion cubic metres a year – primarily to cool thermal or nuclear power plants.

The EWEA argues that renewable energy has huge potential in reducing water use, estimating that wind power avoided the use of 1.2 billion cubic metres of water across the EU in 2012 – resulting in financial savings of €2.4 billion (£2bn).

Based on data from Eurostat and the European Environment Agency, it estimates that 830TWh of electricity was produced from coal power plants, 758TWh from gas and 902TWh from nuclear in 2011. With the average water consumption rates of the three technologies, gas generation used 531 million m³ of water, coal generation used 1.5 billion m³ of water and nuclear generation 2.4 billion m³ in 2011. That is equivalent to the average annual household water use of 82 million EU citizens.

Wind turbines however use barely any water, it claims, expect a little is needed to cool generators and occasionally clean blades.

The EWEA is calling on EU governments to promote higher water efficiency standards and take it into account when designing future energy policies, move away from water-intensive technologies like thermal power plants to renewable energy as well as promote adequate pricing of water usage.

It estimates that by 2030, wind energy could avoid between 4.3 billion and 6.4 billion of water – saving between €11.8 billion (£9.9bn) and €17.4 billion (£14.6bn).