Water issues give solar, wind power another advantage over traditional power plants

“Advocates for alternative energy are discovering that water issues may prove to be as important a selling point for the industry as reducing carbon-dioxide emissions,” according to an article headlined “Water Worries Shape Local Energy Decisions,” in The Wall Street Journal (26 March 2009).

Especially in the western U.S., where water can be scarce, communities are turning to wind farms or solar arrays — which have minimal water needs — instead of building traditional power plants that consume more water.

The electric-power industry accounts for nearly half of all water withdrawals in the U.S., with agricultural irrigation coming in a distant second at about 35%. Even though most of the water used by the power sector eventually is returned to waterways or the ground, 2% to 3% is lost through evaporation, amounting to 1.6 trillion to 1.7 trillion gallons a year that might otherwise enhance fisheries or recharge aquifers, according to a Department of Energy study.

The study concluded that a megawatt hour of electricity produced by a wind turbine can save 200 to 600 gallons of water compared with the amount required by a modern gas-fired power plant to make that same amount.

Twitter: RT @mitchbetts Solar & wind farms have another advantage over traditional power plants: They use a lot less water. http://bit.ly/1a4GCx

The president-elect will face big problems, threats

It’ll be a short honeymoon. The next U.S. president will face high expectations (which may be impossible to fulfill), a recessionary economy and huge budget deficits. And that’s just domestically. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, gave a speech this week that lays out the broader threats. As The Washington Post reported:

The next U.S. president will govern in an era of increasing international instability, including a heightened risk of terrorist attacks in the near future, long-term prospects of regional conflicts and diminished U.S. dominance across the globe, the nation’s top intelligence officer said Thursday.

Competition for energy, water and food will drive conflicts between nations to a degree not seen in decades, and climate change and global economic upheaval will amplify the effects, [McConnell said].

“After the new president-elect’s excitement subsides after winning the election, it is going to be dampened somewhat when he begins to focus on the realities of the myriad of changes and challenges,” he said.

Of course, besides the predictable conflicts and threats, “there is always surprise,” McConnell said. (Futurists call ’em wild cards.)

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