The power sector is the one of the world’s biggest consumers of water, but one source – wind power – uses very little water to produce electricity. All fossil fuels and nuclear need significant quantities of water to pump crude oil out of the ground, remove pollutants from power plant exhausts, flush residues after fossil fuels are burned and cool power plants.
Coal uses up to 3.2 cubic metres of water per megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity produced, gas uses up to 1.7 m3 per MWh and nuclear around 2.7 m3 per MWh, but wind power uses only a fraction of these amounts.
In the US, the Department of Energy estimates that with a 20% share of wind power in the power system by 2030, as much as 15 trillion litres of water could be saved. That is the equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 9 million US citizens.
“Water scarcity is becoming a global challenge exacerbated by population growth and climate change. Wind energy is key to preserving our water resources and fighting climate change,” argues Remi Gruet, EWEA senior regulatory affairs advisor for environment and climate change. “Governments should therefore take a much more holistic approach to energy policy and promote investments in wind energy with ambitious targets for renewable energy.”
Global water demand is expected to outstrip supply by 2030 as world population grows and demand for power rises, according to the 2030 water resources group.