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Water Savings Seen in Boosting Renewable Power Generation

Power produced from renewable sources including wind and solar photovoltaics may use 100 times less water than plants that use fossil fuels, according to the chief climate and sustainability analyst for GDF Suez SA.

“Most renewables, they use maybe two orders of magnitude less water,” Amit Pathare from the French electric and gas utility said today at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. “It’s not comparable to the amount of water used for fossil fuels.”

Turbines and solar panels don’t require the amount of water needed for cooling plants fired by coal, oil or natural gas, Pathare said. Hydraulic fracturing to tap petroleum deposits underground also requires vast water resources, he said.

China, which burns almost half the world’s coal, has diverted rivers, which is “extremely expensive,” and is investing more in desalination plants to better balance its energy and water needs, Pathare said.

“From the water-supply standpoint, they’re exploring all sorts of ways,” he said. “From the water-demand perspective, they will continue to grow with thermal generation, but that’s the other advantage of diversifying away from thermal generation.”

GDF Suez SA, based in Courbevoie, France, is Europe’s biggest utility by market value.

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