CLAIM: Renewable energy technologies use just as much water as traditional energy consumption and are unsuitable for drier regions.
On the whole, renewable energy uses far less water than traditional energy sources, and mainstream wind and solar PV technologies use little to no water.
- When comparing energy scenarios from renewable and non-renewable generation sources, the renewable scenarios “use less water intensive technologies, leading to overall reductions in water use.”(Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, http://bit.ly/UtnfNi)
- Neither wind nor solar require significant quantities of water during normal operation. Hydropower evidently uses water in vast quantities but, “the majority of this is passed straight through [the power-generating turbines] with negligible losses at the turbine level.”(Source: Harvard University, http://bit.ly/dEWT29)
- Harvard University’s findings on solar were mirrored by a study from the University of Arizona, that concluded, “…based upon the data available it appears that water consumption for PV-based electricity is relatively low.”(Source: University of Arizona, http://bit.ly/Q6JPcW)
- Geothermal energy requires 5 gallons/MWh of freshwater, compared to 361 gallons/MWh at a natural gas plant. Geothermal energy relies mostly on geothermal reservoir fluids for cooling, which are neither fresh nor potable.(Source: Geothermal Energy Association, http://bit.ly/OFk0ED)
- Renewables’ water use ranges from 0.6 gallons/MWh for land-based and offshore wind to 81.4 gallons/MWh for concentrated solar power. In contrast, “the average coal plant in the U.S. will consume 427 gallons/MWh, or nearly an order of magnitude larger.”(Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, http://bit.ly/UtnfNi)
- Solar PV systems use approximately 0.07-0.19 gallons of water per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, while coal with carbon sequestration (so called “clean coal”), which uses 0.57-1.53 gallons of H20/kWh produced.(Source: University of Arizona, http://bit.ly/Q6JPcW)
- The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reached a similar conclusion about water use, publishing a study in 2011 with the following median water usage figures: 687 gal/MWh for generic tower-cooled coal generation; 672 gal/MWh for generic tower-cooled nuclear generation; 26 gal/MWh for utility scale solar photovoltaic; 26 gal/MWh for dry-cooled power tower concentrated solar power (CSP); 786 gal/MWh for tower-cooled CSP and 0 gal/MWh for dry-cooled flash geothermal.(Source: NREL, http://bit.ly/S34jDt)
- For perspective, a 1.3 gigawatt (GW) coal-fired power plant uses seven times the annual water consumption of Paris over its lifetime.(Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, http://bit.ly/S1Jjk1)
- “If oil prices were to rise high enough to make oil shale production cost effective… producing oil from oil shale could require large amounts of water. As a result… the ultimate potential size of any industry might be limited by water availability, among other things.”(Source: Government Accountability Office, http://1.usa.gov/QiZB4d)
- Chesapeake Energy Corp. reports that drilling a deep shale gas well requires between 65,000 and 600,000 gallons of water, but the fracking process requires an average of an additional 4.5 million gallons to be injected per well at high pressure to break up the rock.”(Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, http://bit.ly/S1Jjk1)
- When comparing gas-fired generation from fracking with wind or solar PV, “the water factor comes down strongly in favour of renewable energy.”(Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, http://bit.ly/S1Jjk1)