Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Water vs Energy - Special Report by IEEE Spectrum

The Coming Clash Between Water and Energy

Our thirst for water competes with our hunger for energy. Only radical new ideas will get us out of this mess
Consider a giant sponge, with limbs and tentacles that reach to the horizon. It dips into distant rivers, it delves for deep waters, it digs ditches to catch the rain—all to slake its insatiable thirst.

Clearly, this is no ordinary sea creature quietly snuffling the currents. We have met this sponge, and it is us. We humans are the thirstiest of creatures, and we’ve developed a nearly insatiable taste for this simple but delectable arrangement of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. But we need more. So much more.

We’re not talking about just drinking or bathing. Without water, we’d have practically no energy. Without energy—and therefore cars, planes, laptops, smartphones, and lighting—we wouldn’t be doing much.

In almost every type of power plant, water is a major hidden cost. Water cools the blistering steam of thermal plants and allows hydroelectric turbines to churn. It brings biofuel crops from the ground and geothermal energy from the depths of the Earth. Our power sources would be impotent without water.

IEEE Spectrum's June Special report is about “The Water-Energy Nexus.” It sounds wonky, but it’s a subject about which you’ll inevitably be hearing more and more. In coming years, we’ll undoubtedly face the quandaries of the Water-Energy Nexus because many renewable technologies come with big water tradeoffs. IEEE Spectrum’s Senior Editor, Sam Moore, is with us to discuss the special report in this podcast, and acquaint us with some of the stories.

Check out the rest of the special report: Water vs Energy.

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