Shift to Solar Would Help Address Middle East Water Scarcity
The massive amount of water required to run fossil fuel generating stations could make the shift to solar power one of the keys to addressing freshwater scarcity in the Middle East, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports this week.
“Fresh and sea water is often used in the process of cooling fossil fuel power plants, ubiquitous in the Middle East and North Africa,” Thomson Reuters states, citing the World Bank. “Put another way, powering one 60-watt incandescent light bulb for 12 hours over one year can consume 3,000 to 6,000 gallons of water.”
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That means switching to renewables has benefits beyond the immediate value of reducing climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Resources Institute. “A lot of times, the water savings, that kind of benefits from renewable projects, are overlooked,” said WRI senior manager Tianyi Luo.
Thomson Reuters identifies Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan as the countries with the most to gain from a switch, based on their solar potential and their limited access to freshwater. “These countries have high-average resources for both solar and wind that could be put to very productive uses,” said Jordan Macknick, energy and water analyst at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “and it could potentially assist them in their water-related challenges.”
By contrast with the legacy technology they would replace, the news agency notes that solar panels “require little or no water to install and maintain.”
But it may take a bit more discussion and advocacy to turn the analysis in the Thomson Reuters story into action. Earlier this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that countries in and around the Middle East will add 41 gigawatts (GW) of new coal capacity in the next decade.