Energy Exchange

New Graphics from DOE Illustrate the Energy-Water-Land Nexus

Energy-Water-Land NexusI’ve talked a lot about the inextricable link between the energy and water sectors, but land is a third component in this nexus that’s starting to gain recognition – and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is taking note. In fact, they recently released a 250-plus page report on the energy-water nexus (which I explore in-depth in a recent blog post) with accompanying visuals to illustrate the connection between these three sectors.

What is a Sankey diagram?

The primary graphic used to illustrate the connection between these three resources is the Sankey diagram. At first glance, it may make your head spin, but Sankey diagrams are commonly used to visualize energy transfers (although they are also used for other things, such as migration flows).

For example, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) uses Sankey diagrams in its Annual Energy Reports to illustrate the production and consumption of different energy sources. Since the width of the arrows corresponds with quantity, the viewer can easily see where the biggest impacts lie. In this case, it’s clear to see which energy resources are gulping down our water. Read More »

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How this 300-year-old city is leading on U.S. solar, energy-water, and climate action

By Kate Zerrenner, Jaclyn Rambarran

On May 5, 2018, the city of San Antonio will officially be 300 years old! On that day in 1718, the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar (a Spanish fort) was founded. The city’s tricentennial celebration will culminate in a weeklong celebration of history, art, and culture the first week of May.

San Antonio is a unique place that should be honored in Texas and beyond. In addition to its strong Hispanic heritage, the city boasts a large military population, straddles the border between eastern, western, and southern U.S., and claims to be the birthplace of breakfast tacos.

This growing city also has a powerful role to play in the future of Texas and the United States in terms of climate change and air quality, as evidenced by its initiatives around renewable energy, the energy-water nexus, and climate action. With all this in mind, let’s take a moment to celebrate not just San Antonio’s momentous birthday, but also its impressive efforts to ensure the sustainability of the city going forward. Read More »

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Holistic Energy-Water Planning: Hedging Your Bets in a Water-Stressed World

ewn road to resilienceYou probably have some sort of insurance – for your healthcare, car, house, or apartment. Acting on climate change is also like insurance. It is all about managing the risks.

We can’t know for certain what the future brings, but recent research predicts a 40 percent shortfall of available water across the globe by 2030. In the face of this prediction, a new report from the World Energy Council, “The Road to Resilience – Managing the Risks of the Energy-Water-Food Nexus” helps lay some groundwork to ensure we plan for the climate risks that will affect our most essential resources.

I have talked about the reliance of energy on water and water on energy (the energy-water nexus), and touched on their connection to food. But let me make that linkage clearer: 70 percent of available global freshwater is used by the agricultural sector, and energy is the second-largest freshwater user globally after agriculture (although this varies from country to country and region to region). Relatedly, about 15 percent of total U.S. energy demand is for the food sector (this includes both agriculture and processing), and roughly 13 percent of U.S. energy use is for water-related purposes.  Read More »

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How Energy-Water Data Can Help Cities Conserve Both, on World Water Day and Beyond

flickr broken water pipeToday is World Water Day, an international observance of water’s importance. This year’s theme is “Water and Jobs,” bringing awareness to the fact that nearly half of all workers on Earth (about 1.5 billion people) work in water-related jobs, and virtually all jobs depend on water in some way.

In conjunction with 2016 World Water Day, the nation’s capital is hosting the White House Water Summit. The President has called on organizations from around the country to voluntarily take new, specific, and measurable steps to address key water issues, such as drought or flooding, water availability, water-use efficiency, and water security. EDF heeded that call and made the following commitment:

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is announcing a partnership with Pecan Street, Inc. to gather data and conduct analysis to help 50 households in Houston and Austin understand the connection between their water and energy use. Results of this analysis will help Houston and Austin reduce the water and energy footprint of the more than 3 million utility customers in the two cities. In addition, EDF will work with the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of California, Davis to help water providers of three to five major Texas cities better manage the energy use embedded in their water systems, with an additional one or two states to be announced later this year.

The work laid out here addresses the issue of embedded energy in water systems, or, in other words, the electricity it takes to secure, deliver, treat, distribute, and heat water. (This is part of what’s known as the “energy-water nexus”.) Read More »

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Star Wars Awakens Much-Needed Energy-Water Innovation

Tunisie_Star_Wars_2Originally published on CleanTechnica.

I was a little kid when the first Star Wars movie came out, and it’s not an understatement to say that it remains a huge influence on me. For those of my generation, growing up in the 1980s, it was a powerful “force” in our lives. The Star Wars films have arguably left a legacy like no other: in the 2011 census, nearly 200,000 residents of England and Wales identified themselves as Jedi Knights, the largest single category after the traditional, mainstream religions. And now, with the new film promising to restore fans’ faith in the franchise, a new generation can be inspired.

But aside from its devoted fan base, Star Wars and other sci-fi mega-blockbusters have a much greater role to play in our society. Science fiction both reflects the times we are in and inspires future technologies – not to mention the innovators that create them. This is true of most science fiction: think about Jules Verne (arguably the father of Science Fiction) and the influence 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea had on submarines, or the original Star Trek series and communicators (flip phones), or 2001: A Space Odyssey and interactive computers (hello, Siri!). Read More »

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The Nuts And Bolts — Or Rather Watts and Volts — Of The Energy-Water Lingo

A glossary of energy and water terms

In recent posts I’ve discussed the need for energy and water planners to co-manage resources more comprehensively. But another significant barrier exists: language. Water and energy planners use different terminology and a lack of understanding for these distinctions hampers true coordination. Also, it prevents customers from understanding how to make sense of their own usage patterns and maximize energy and water efficiency.

Electricity measurements

Getting into the nuts and bolts — or watts and volts — of the issue can get very dry very quickly, so let’s go over some basic units of measurement to set the stage.

Electricity is measured in watts, usually represented as kilowatts (kW), megawatts (MW), but often discussed as megawatt-hours (MWh). One MW is roughly equivalent to ten running cars engines. A MWh is the total amount of electricity produced by a power plant in one hour, roughly the amount of energy used by 330 homes in one hour. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in May 2013, Texas generated 12,261 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from coal-fired power plants (1 GWh = 1,000 MWh) and only 4,116 GWh from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

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