Behind the Scenes: How Might Solar Panels Help With Water Conservation?
Many homeowners appreciate having a clean source of energy while also cutting their energy bills when making the switch to solar energy. However, one of the hidden benefits of solar panels is how it can help with water conservation efforts. Learn more about how solar power may serve to improve water management and conservation efforts today.
Water is Not Needed to Generate Power
Significant amounts of water are needed to cool conventional power plants. Freshwater and fresh surface-water withdrawals are often used for this purpose. Solar panels can generate power without requiring water to cool panels off. Homeowners often think of green technology upgrades in the context of energy efficiency, but conservation should be part of the conversation as well.
No Water to Capture Solar Energy
Fossil fuel companies need to drill for oil and natural gas, using water as part of highly-pressured liquid injected to “fracture” underground rocks and extract fuel. “Fracking” in the United States has been known to produce approximately 250 billion gallons of wastewater during the extraction process from 2005 to 2014. Water is used as part of the “hydraulic fracturing” process, in addition to water used for refining and transporting fossil fuels. Anywhere from 80 to 230 million gallons of water are used to mine coal and strip mining for coal through mountaintop removal has served to bury up to 2,000 miles of headwater streams in Appalachia.
Energy Sources with the Lowest Water Use
A comparative analysis of energy sources from the River Network showed that wind and photovoltaic solar power consume the least amount of water. Solar panels, once manufactured and installed, require no water to operate during their lifetime. Other energy sources with low amounts of water consumed or withdrawn include geothermal and solar thermal energy. Those energy sources requiring the withdrawal of the greatest amount of water are natural gas, nuclear and coal. At a time when clean energy is becoming more popular and affordable for the average homeowner, it is interesting to see how relying on fossil fuels serves to unnecessarily waste natural resources like water.
Solar Panels Can Improve Water Management Efforts
Every community deserves healthy drinking water. However, water utility companies need to spend a significant part of the budgets to meet the energy demands required to treat drinking water. Water utility companies that have installed solar systems can dramatically reduce energy costs which can decrease costs associated with saving and maintaining water resources. Saving money in this area of a budget can allow water utility companies to reallocate funds toward state-of-the-art water technology and improved water efficiency.
Floating Solar Panels Reduce Water Evaporation
When floating solar panels are installed as part of floatvoltaics, evaporation from reservoirs may be reduced up to 70 percent. Floating solar farms are being used in Napa and Japan. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports that bodies of freshwater, such as in the case of Lake Mead, can lose approximately 600,000 acre-feet of water annually to evaporation.
Support Local Water Conservation Efforts
As residents may be asked to reduce water consumption in parts of the country or may want to improve the amount of potable drinking water, solar energy and other clean energy sources can help support water conservation efforts. Installation of solar panels have become more efficient and affordable since their initial introduction and communities in New Jersey and California are among those states showing great interest in solar energy. Over 1 million homes in the United States now use rooftop solar panels and associated costs have decreased 70 percent.
Clean water resources are vital in maintaining the health of the ecology and many organisms living within it. Climate change is a real threat and Audubon scientists recommend turning to cleaner energy sources. Switching to solar can do much to support local water conservation efforts. Learn more about solar energy today.