A European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) report, Saving Water with Wind Energy, shows that thermal and nuclear generation uses around 44% of Europe’s total water resources, primarily as a cooling agent.
This water is calculated to be equivalent to the average annual household water use of 82 million European citizens — roughly the population of Germany.
“Every summer thousands of Europeans face hosepipe bans, while water equivalent to over three Olympic-size swimming pools is consumed every minute to cool Europe’s nuclear, coal and gas plants,” says EWEA environment and planning analyst Angeliki Koulouri.
“Wind turbines use no water, and this report shows the enormous difference to Europe’s precious water supply that wind energy can make.”
The report recommends that the EU drastically reduce water consumption from the electricity sector in three ways:
Encouraging greater water efficiency and taking this into account when designing energy policies.
Setting binding renewables targets for 2030 while moving away from water-intensive technologies such as thermal power plants to technologies such as wind, which use virtually no water.
Promoting the adequate pricing of water usage and consumption.
The report finds that wind energy avoided the use of 1.2 billion cubic metres of water in 2012 — equivalent to the average annual household usage of almost 22 million citizens.
EWEA calculates that in 2030 the avoided costs of water use through increased wind energy deployment could amount to between €11.8bn and €17.4bn ($16.2bn-23.9bn) that year.
According to an OECD report, 40% of the world’s population will face severe “water stress” conditions by 2050. Increasing demand and pollution will worsen water security in many regions.
The European Commission says at least 11% of Europe’s population had been affected by water scarcity by 2007, with the cost of droughts on the continent put at about €100bn over the past 30 years.