Water covers 70 percent of the earth we live on which makes it pretty important! Did you know that our bodies are mostly water? In fact, we couldn’t live for more than a few days without it. Water does more than just help us survive. It’s used to make the cars we drive, clothes we wear and electricity that is used to power our homes. Many of the items we consume daily use significant amounts of water. Climate change is a problem and has a direct effect in putting this precious resource at great risk. If these conditions with global warming continue, we could be on a dangerous path to a water crisis on a global scale that could have catastrophic results. The decisions we make regarding energy can have big implications for water resources. Water is used to produce energy in power plants and to extract, process and move fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. According to the International Energy Agency, in recent years, almost 15 percent of global water withdrawals account for global water withdrawals every year. Using solar power is very water-friendly and can reduce water use significantly.
How Can Solar Panels Save Water?
Solar panels don’t need water to generate power. Vast amounts of water are used to cool conventional electric power plants. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. power plants were responsible for 45% of total water withdrawals in 2010. They were also responsible for 38% of total freshwater withdrawals and 51% of fresh surface-water withdrawals. Solar panels can generate power and don’t need water for cooling. Solar panels can use as little as 1/200th of the water that typical power plants use, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In 2015, the solar company, SolarCity, avoided more than 32 billion gallons of water used at power plants in the United States. That amount of water could fill 49,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools!
Water Requirements; Solar VS Fracking & Coal Mining
Catching solar fuel doesn’t need water directly. Solar fuel is sunlight and extracting and processing fossil fuels needs vast amounts of water. Lots of water is needed in the liquid that is required to “fracture” underground rock to drill for natural gas and oil. This process is called “fracking”. Once fracking is done, more water is needed for the refining process and transportation. Duke University did a study and found that energy companies used almost 250 billion gallons of water to extract shale gas and oil from fracking in the United States between 2005 and 2014. This caused about 210 billion gallons of wastewater. Coal mining also uses a ton of water which is anywhere from 80 million to 230 million gallons every day according to the Union for Concerned Scientists.
While it does require some water to make solar panels, it continues to become less water-intensive because of efficiency and recycling. Solar panels can also help local water districts improve water management and efficiency.