Rooftop solar cells can be a boon for water conservation too
Author: Karl Leif Bates
Electricity-generating rooftop solar cells not only save on planet-warming carbon emissions, they also save a significant amount of water, say a pair of Duke University researchers who have done the math. A given household may save an average 16,200 gallons of water per year by installing rooftop solar, they found. In some states, like California, this saving can increase to 53,000 gallons, which is equivalent to 60 percent of the average household water use in the U.S. That’s because energy use is tightly bound to water consumption. Electrical energy production in the U.S. consumes nearly as much water as the agricultural sector. But that figure doesn’t include the additional water used produce fossil fuels in the first place, nor to manage coal ash waste.“To generate electricity for the grid we need to mine and burn coal, frack and pump natural gas, and cool nuclear plants, all involving high volumes of water that is continuously lost,” said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University distinguished professor of environmental quality in the Nicholas School of the Environment and co-author of a new paper that appears Sept. 19 in Science of the Total Environment.