Saving water and reducing carbon: How Texas is doing both

As another international conference on climate change gets underway in Durban, South Africa, Paul Faeth, a senior fellow at Washington, D.C.-based think tank CNA, points out that the state of Texas is succeeding both at conserving water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through greater use of wind power.

Comments Faeth in an article on the "Oil and Glory" blog of Foreign Policy magazine, "Facing its worst single-year drought ever, Texas is demonstrating synergies that accompany the extensive use of wind power, which requires no water and tamps down the need for water-guzzling coal-powered electric plants. The southwestern U.S. state has the largest installed capacity of wind power in the country — in October, wind production was a record 15 percent of the load, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the electric-grid operator known for short as ERCOT. That translates to a similar reduction in potential water demand. One finds similar results elsewhere where severe drought has struck, such as China.

"The greatest use of freshwater in the U.S. is to cool electric power plants, comprising 41 percent of the total. Most is withdrawn from lakes and rivers. Of today's two main power production options — coal and gas — gas uses less than half the water, emits almost no air pollution, and releases less than half the carbon dioxide of coal. Wind power, which is expanding quickly across the U.S., uses no water and produces no emissions.  By reducing demand, energy efficiency also cuts water use and CO2 emissions."

Texas's success with wind is likely to prove vital in the near future, as the extreme drought that has gripped the state is likely to continue through 2012, and some communities are running short of drinking water.

More reading:

New report highlights power plant stress on freshwater supplies in Southeast, November 21, 2011
Think tank: Water needs may limit shale gas, some renewables, June 29, 2011

Water anxiety? Wind power can help, June 16, 2011

Report sees water as utility investment risk factor, October 27, 2010

Use wind, save water, September 20, 2010

20% Wind Energy by 2030 Summary Presentation (pdf)

The Wind/Water Nexus, U.S. Department of Energy fact sheet, 2006 (pdf)

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