As many of us know carbon (CO2) is one of the leading contributors of global climate change; however, when we talk about energy use and our ‘carbon footprint’ we may also want to think about our ‘water footprint’. Water and energy are not only precious natural resources, they also have an intertwined relationship.

In order to provide electricity, it requires water. On the other hand, if you want water, it will require electricity. Many people don’t realize the tremendous amount of water it takes to create electricity, nor do they know that a great deal of electricity is needed to move water.  With the exception of wind and photovoltaic solar found on rooftops (more on this later), most power plants have a process that turns water into steam, which runs a generator that, in turn, produces electricity. This process comes with a hefty water price tag.

Researchers from Virginia Tech estimate that fossil fuel thermoelectric plants use between 8 -16 gallons of water to illuminate one 60-watt incandescent light bulb for 12 hours per day. When these numbers are taken over the duration of one year, this single light bulb consumes 3,000-6,300 gallons of water!

According to the Arizona Water Institute, different types of power plants require different amounts of water. In Arizona, 785 gallons are used per megawatt-hour (gal/mWhr) for nuclear energy and 548 gal/mWhr for coal. However, less than 1gal/mWhr is used for large scale solar photovoltaic plants.

It’s important to note that not all power plants need to use water. When TFS installs photovoltaic solar panels at your home, school, office building, restaurant, or hotel — this mini power plant creates electricity without the use of water. This is one of the many reasons we at TFS are excited about the impact that widespread solar adoption can have on our community.