River Network has a lot of recommendations for fixing the problem, including deploying better cooling technologies. But it’s the endorsement of wind and PV that lead its long list.
“Wind and PV solar require virtually no water to generate electricity, and their lifecycle water footprints are far smaller than hydro, nuclear or fossil fuels,” the report states. “The technology exists for wind to provide 20 percent of our electricity by 2024.”
It does take some water to make wind turbines and solar panels, but not much. Weighted by production, River Network puts hydroelectric’s contribution to the total water footprint of electricity at 29,920 gallons; coal’s at 7,143 gallons per megawatt-hour; natural gas at 1,512 gallons/MWh; and nuclear at 2,995 gallons/MWh. PV, meanwhile, comes in at 2 gallons/MWh, and wind at just 1.
“Since the majority of the water used by wind and PV solar is ‘upstream’ (to acquire and process materials for fabrication), manufacturing can be focused in water rich regions without increasing water impacts in dry regions,” the River Network report says.
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