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New Report Highlights Yet Another Problem with Fossil-Fuel-Fired Power Plants: Water

1 min. read

As if there weren't already enough reasons to switch from fossil fuel-fired power generation to clean, abundant, renewable energy, here's another strong one from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

In 2005, the nation’s thermoelectric power plants— which boil water to create steam, which in turn drives turbines to produce electricity—withdrew as much water as farms did, and more than four times as much as all U.S. residents. That means lighting rooms, powering computers and TVs, and running appliances requires more water, on average, than the total amount we use in our homes—washing dishes and clothes, showering, flushing toilets, and watering lawns and gardens.
This tremendous volume of water has to come from somewhere. Across the country, water demand from power plants is combining with pressure from growing populations and other needs and straining water resources especially during droughts and heat waves...

How bad is this situation? According to the report,  in Texas, it's possible that "several thousand megawatts of electrical capacity might go offline if  the drought persists into 2012."  And "[i]n the arid Southwest, power plants have been contributing to the depletion of aquifers, in some cases without even reporting their water use." There are many more examples.

The answers to this problem? The report recommends several, including: increasing the use of "dry cooling" technologies (e.g., "by choosing technologies that use essentially no water, such as wind and solar photovoltaics, and by investing in energy efficiency"), "retool[ing] existing power plants" to use less water, "sett[ing] strong guidelines for power plant water use," and "reduc[ing] power plant carbon emissions" to reduce the risk of human-caused climate change. All of these answers, of course, point us away from fossil-fuel-fired power plants, and towards energy efficiency and renewables like wind and photovoltaics. Which is exactly what we've been arguing for a while now.

h/t: New York Times Green blog