How Much Water Does It Take to Make Electricity?

Natural gas requires the least water to produce energy, biofuels the most, according to a new study

2 min read

23 April 2008—Remember when you were a kid and your parents made a big fuss about turning off the light when you left a room? Who knew that, besides adding to the monthly electric bill, keeping a single 60-watt lightbulb lit for 12 hours uses as much as 60 liters of water? According to researchers at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, in Blacksburg, Va., fossil-fuel-fired thermoelectric power plants consume more than 500 billion L of fresh water per day in the United States alone.

”That translates to an average of 95 L of water to produce 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity,” says Tamim Younos, associate director of the center and a professor of water resources at Virginia Tech, where the center is housed.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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