With global warming wreaking havoc with the planet’s water resources, a potentially big market to tap into will be developing over the next decade or so: greening the power plant.
Over the last few years, the amount of green energy produced on a per-unit basis has risen by leaps and bounds: Wind now accounts for about half of total electricity production, with solar a distant second. If current trends hold, that will get even more crowded: GE predicts that the price of wind energy will drop by about 50 percent between 2020 and 2030 and that the price of solar panels will come down to match that by the end of the decade.
But in order to remain competitive with traditional fossil fuel plants, green energy is looking to reduce emissions from fossil fuel plants. Researchers are beginning to explore the possibility of constructing highly efficient plants, in part because of the thirst for water that is quickly becoming a global issue.
Before building a new power plant, a company can set up a “water-neutral” plant — one that captures as much as 90 percent of the water from the emissions of the plant and returns it to the river or lake in which it originates. “There’s a massive amount of water that is being wasted,” said Todd Apetral, the managing director of EnerNOC’s Environmental Energy Solutions group.
Although the water treatment facilities built to ensure the plant runs smoothly can lower emissions by 25 percent to 50 percent, they can’t exactly offset what comes out of the plant’s smokestacks. Today, approximately 70 percent of all human-produced greenhouse gases fall into four categories: