Many people associate clean energy as providing a boost to the quality of air, benefiting the planet on a primarily atmospheric scale. The pollution output of the likes of coal or gas power plants produce greenhouse gasses that are a cause of concern for many. What is often overlooked though is the environmental impact that fossil-fueled power plants leave on water. And this problem is causing some legitimate concern over in China, where the water supply is hurting.
Take a look at this excerpt from an article found on cleantechnica.com that details a little bit of this problem…
China’s coal-powered economy may soon be coming up against the hard reality of limited resources — coal mining/processing uses up an incredible amount of water, and water is a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce throughout much of China. As climate change continues to intensify, water scarcity is predicted to become a significant problem throughout much of the country. With an economy that is dependent to such a large degree upon coal, what will happen as the resource becomes increasingly expensive to extract? It’s no wonder that the country is investing so much in renewable energy research/technology.
The coal industry, and its associated power stations, are responsible for somewhere around 17% of China’s overall annual water use — that’s a very significant amount of water, especially when you consider that China’s coal industry is primarily based in the country’s dry northern regions. As it stands now, water scarcity is already becoming a problem, but with the pursuit of China’s stated goal of boosting coal-fired power by twice the total generating capacity of India by the year 2020, it’s set to become even more significant.
“Water shortages will severely limit thermal power capacity additions,” stated Charles Yonts, the head of sustainable research at brokerage CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Hong Kong. “You can’t reconcile targets for coal production in, say, Shanxi province and Inner Mongolia with their water targets.”
It’s not just off in the future, though, the effects on water availability are already being felt — since the year 1990, more than half of China’s rivers have completely dried up, and much of those that haven’t are heavily contaminated. The hard reality of limited water availability is of course a problem for the individuals that live in the areas most affected, but it is also a significant problem for China as a whole, especially its economy — without enough water, coal simply can’t be mined, power stations can’t run, and the largely coal-powered economy of the country won’t grow.
With these concerns looming, the need for clean energy is as pressing as ever. While China is a major producer of solar panels, they haven’t seemed to be in a rush to utilize the technology quite as much many other nations. Despite being the most populous country on Earth, China only ranked 28th in the world in solar power capacity per capita in 2012.
The future of clean energy continues to become more cost-effective with the continued improvement in solar technology. And as the negative impacts of fossil fuel sources grow more apparent over time, the importance of harnessing energy from the sun grows as well. With the capabilities of capturing that energy on the go becoming more accessible as well, there’s every reason out there to move away from any sources of energy that bring with them negative effects.