Understanding the essential relationship between water and energy production

February 17, 2017

Water and clean energy production are closely related“Without enough water, you can’t have power; without enough power, you can’t have water.”

This quote from a SunPower blog article describes the critical relationship between water and clean energy production, as well as how solar power minimizes water usage in the production of power.

The relationship between water and energy production is extremely close and co-dependent. It takes a massive amount of water to generate energy, and it takes a huge quantity of energy to process water that can be utilized by humans for drinking and other purposes.

The article states:

Power plants that rely on coal, oil, gas or nuclear power use more than 40 percent of freshwater withdrawn for human uses (drinking, irrigation, etc.) in the United States.

According to the article, this amount doesn’t even include the percentage of water used to control pollution created in the creation of energy.

These plants do end up returning the water used to the environment, but what if they don’t have enough water in the first place? If there is a shortage of water, power plants have to spend money to bring water from other areas or end up closing down their facilities.

In addition, water-related energy costs—such as the cost to make drinkable water—are high, and in many cases, rising. For instance, during a water shortage in the Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District of San Bernardino County, California, energy costs increased by more than $300,000 within a couple of years.

So, is there a viable alternative that can cut costs while also promoting water and energy conservation? Yes, there is. Solar uses much less water in clean energy production than fossil fuel plants.

According to the article:

…photovoltaic (PV) solar power helps significantly reduce the amount of water needed to make energy and helps save water districts money.

In contrast to the gallons of water needed for a fossil fuel power plant to create one kilowatt of energy, it takes only a few cups for the same amount of energy to be produced using solar panel technology.

The Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District (mentioned above) has been able to cut costs through a partnership with SunPower to convert an old dairy farm into a 1.5 megawatt solar power system.

As public and private institutions seek to cut water-related energy costs and promote an environmentally-friendly relationship between water and energy production, solar power continues to prove itself a worthy solution:

The agriculture industry, an especially water-intensive business, has increasingly embraced solar as a way to combat rising electricity costs … more food and beverage companies are going solar to reduce their bottom line while doing something that’s good for the environment.

Read the full article here.

Learn how SunPower’s technology produces 15% more than other commercial panels: SunPower introduces new solar panel: The Performance Series


Related links:

Solar is trending as a top renewable energy investment worldwide

Solar battery storage could increase savings for over 25% of commercial utility customers

What's the best renewable energy for you?

FLOWCHART: Is commercial solar right for your organization?


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