Could wind help tackle the world’s water shortage?

Windfarm in the desert
Posted 16/09/2016 by E.ON

Water is vital for life, a precious resource for the economy, and plays an important role in our climate. We use it for our morning showers and washing our cars, but that’s just a small share of what we actually need.

How much water are we actually using?

Each EU citizen alone consumes an average of 4,815 litres of water per day. This is through our everyday use, but also things like agricultural consumption and power production.

Energy from conventional power production uses the highest amount of water in the EU - around 44% - according to the European Wind Energy Association. This is equivalent to the average annual household use of 82 million people - or the entire population of Germany.

Conventional power stations are often built next to rivers so water waste is limited. But we still need to look at reducing water consumption in energy production. How?

Tap with running water

Wind power could help hold the answer.

While they don’t use any carbon, renewable energy technologies also use the least water against the amount of electricity generated. Wind turbines rarely need water, and only for cooling purposes and occasional blade washing – a job that’s usually done by the rain.

This and zero greenhouse gas emissions mean that wind energy also helps to avoid a variety of environmental impacts too.

So generating more wind energy is an important step in the fight to save and protect water resources. And it will also make us less vulnerable to any power shortages due to water-dependent electricity production in the future.

There’s been a sharp increase in the production of renewable energy, and especially wind power, in the last few decades. At the moment, wind energy covers 11.4% of the amount of electricity we use in the EU and the third largest source of power generation in the EU.

In 2030, EU wind energy will save up to 1.57 billion m³ of water according to European Commission projections and save up to £2.8 billion.

Map of English Channel with Rampion

Investing for savings

We’re taking a lead role in the development of wind power in the UK – at the moment we have 20 operational wind farms onshore and offshore.

After introducing two new wind farms to the grid last year - Humber Gateway and Amrumbank West in Germany - we are now building the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm in the English Channel, around 13km off the Sussex coast.

We ran a competition and asked local schools to help us name the wind farm. A shortlist was put to the public vote and more than 2,500 votes were cast. Rampion is the county flower of Sussex and is also known as the ‘Pride of Sussex’.

Due to be completed in 2018, its benefits are huge. Rampion will supply the equivalent of around 300,000 homes each year for its lifetime of the project, and avoid the emission of up to 600,000 tonnes2  of carbon dioxide. The project has contributed jobs to the local economy in Sussex.

And in April, we announced the decision to invest in the Arkona wind park, which is near the German Baltic coast. If we’re to use less water in future, more investment in wind energy is an important step in the right direction, and one which we’re committed to at E.ON.

1 Based on an average annual domestic household electricity consumption of 4,700kWh (DECC): 1,366,560,000KWh / 4,700KWh = 290,757 homes. 2 The calculation is made using a static figure of 430g/kWh representing the energy mix in the UK (1,366,560,000KWh x 430(g/kWh) / 1,000 = 587,621 tonnes pa.

Posted in