In pursuit of saving the planet, and to find a more feasible energy source, we readily accepted solar. Little did we know that the simple decision to ‘go back to the basics’ would not only connect us with an infinite energy source, but also offer a way to save natural resources. And by saying natural resources we mean the most important one: water.
Energy generation and transmission utilizes huge amounts of water; and on the other hand, approximately 8 per cent of the global energy is used to treat, pump, and transport water. So, it is fairly simple to understand that water and energy are interdependent resources.
With the increasing population (approximately 7.7 billion in 2019 globally) and pollution, keeping water clean and uncontaminated has become a challenge.
However, even in this scenario, our conventional energy generation and transmission choices syphon off a huge amount of water, which could have been used to sustain life. It may appear surprising to the uninitiated, that we use water- to pump, remove pollutants during processing, and to control the temperature of the energy plants during energy generation from crude fossil fuel.
How much water? Research suggests that we use near about 2.30 liters/kWh for Nuclear, 1.90 liters/kWh for Coal, and 1.60 liters/kWh for generating energy from Oil. However, the story doesn’t end here, conventional energy choices create waste, which eventually ends up in the water, contaminating water bodies in a more profound manner. For example, if we consider a 500 MW coal based power plant, we will get approximately 200,000 tons of sludge waste and coal ash weighing up to 125,000 tons per year. Even disposing just this amount of waste year after year presents a threat to our eco-system. So, imagine how much damage we are continuously doing to our water supply, given the huge number of coal, oil, and other conventional energy power plants exists in the world. And it is easy to understand that we don’t have much time until clean water becomes a rare commodity.
On the other hand, solar energy solutions present not only the opportunity to avoid wasting water but also protects water, which is definitely the most important resource to sustain life.
Water Free Energy Generation
Oil and coal extraction is often supported by fracking the soil with high-pressure liquid (water) and besides that, gallons of water are used to turn fossil fuel into energy. On the other hand, solar energy generation virtually needs no water. Solar panels harness Sun’s energy when the Sun rays hit the panels. There are no moving parts in the process and there is little to no need for cooling the panels. Although, a little amount of water is used during solar panel manufacturing (0.110 liters/kWh) and cleaning, the total amount is considered to be as little as 1/200th of the water used in conventional energy plants. So, we can say that solar energy generation is a better option to save water while generating energy.
Extended Life Cycle and Eco-Friendly by Design
Solar panels come with a guaranteed life expectancy of 25-27 years (from trusted manufacturers). Having a longer life expectancy helps in minimizing water footprint, keeping a healthy reserve of clean water. Additionally, solar panels are easy to re-cycle. Therefore, environmental impacts are extremely low through these energy generation choices.
Pumping and Cleaning Water
Pumping and treating water using conventional energy for agriculture or drinking, levies a lump sum charge on countries, while eating up generated energy that could have been used for other purposes. And with rising expense of fossil fuel based energy, it has become very expensive to send water to the farthest corners of our world, even when our planet has 8 million cubic miles of freshwater. However, with solar energy usage, pumping water and treating it would become less costly and more efficient.
Protection from Evaporation
Floating solar farms utilize space while generating required energy. Additionally, they can reduce the rate of water evaporation, maintaining the reserve of water intact. Left unchecked, hot summer days can evaporate huge amounts of water from the lake, ponds, and other fresh water bodies. Floating solar farms, providing shade, helps in saving water, protecting our interest in more than one ways.
To be faced with water crisis would be a terrible consequence of our short sightedness. However, global acceptance towards solar energy presents a hope for a sustainable and bright future. And it is exactly what we need at this juncture, to leap towards a fulfilling future.