Submitted to: Electronic Publication
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/3/2009
Publication Date: 12/11/2009
Citation: Vick, B.D. 2009. USDA's Vick tells radio audience wind farms mean hugh water savings. The Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA) On-Line Newsletter. Nov/Dec 2009. p.22-23.
Technical Abstract: Since most of the electricity in the U.S. is generated using coal and natural gas as fuel, almost every wind farm announcement includes the estimated amount of carbon dioxide which was not released to the atmosphere. According to Wikipedia, 2.25 tons of CO2 and 1.14 tons of CO2 were released for every MWh of electricity produced by coal and natural gas power plants, respective. However, seldom does a wind farm announcement include how much water was saved. Recently, a Research Agricultural Engineer was interviewed by a local Amarillo, Texas, radio station. In the interview he answered questions on how water is saved by using wind and solar energy. In the interview, it was emphasized that one of the most beneficial aspects of using wind energy in Texas and New Mexico is that no water is needed to produce wind generated electricity while almost every other major form of electricity production in the world consumes water. Coal, natural gas, nuclear, and some types of solar power plants such as parabolic trough and central tower CSP power plants need water, but Dish Stirling and solar-PV power plants do not. Even hydro-electric power plants incur some water loss through evaporation. However, it is important to know how much water is withdrawn for a thermal power plant and how much is actually consumed. Many thermal power plants are located close to lakes or rivers. They withdraw large amounts of water for cooling, but they return the water to its source, albeit at a higher temperature. Higher temperature water is more likely to evaporate and may also cause ecological problems). Xcel Energy Company recently estimated the amount of water consumed at their thermal power plants over the year to be 600 gallons/MWh. A wind energy expert at West Texas A&M University's Alternative Energy Institute, Canyon, Texas, estimated the current wind farm capacity in Xcel's territory in Texas and New Mexico is 917 MW. Assuming a 35% capacity factor for the wind farms, the total annual savings of water comes out to 5000 acre-feet. An acre-foot is one foot of water on an area approximately the size of a football field. Based on records from the Amarillo water department, the average water usage per person in Amarillo in 2007 was 236 gallons of water per day. This would indicate that the wind farms in Xcel territory are saving the equivalent of what 19,000 people (10% of the population) in Amarillo used during the year.