New data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue shows that wind energy production went up last year from 8.6 million megawatts in 2013 to 9.5 million megawatts in 2014. Since 2004, Minnesota has now produced more than 56 million megawatts of wind energy. Those megawatts serve as a valuable homegrown resource, but they also help preserve one of Minnesota’s most important resources: water.
That’s because traditional power generation, from fuels like coal, uses 541 gallons of water for every megawatt hour produced. When energy production is shifted to fuel free energy sources like wind, each of those megawatts helps save hundreds of gallons of water. Since 2004, Minnesota has saved over 30 billion gallons of water due to wind energy production.
That kind of savings makes a big impact, according to Mark Lindquist, the Program Manager for Energy and Biofuels with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“Minnesota Wind development is in many ways attractive, because it’s a form of industrial development where the primary alternative are typically focused on agricultural processing, which is generally water intensive,” explained Lindquist. “So here’s a new industry that puts zero pressure
Even with that water savings, power generation is still by far the largest use of water in Minnesota, followed by industrial processing and irrigation. Different regions of the state rely more heavily on ground water and surface water based on their local resources. Cutting back on water usage overall helps keep those resources in balance while preserving natural habitat and wildlife.
“These renewable systems are great opportunities for economic development that’s sustainable within the context of the underlying water resource,” said Lindquist. “And I think that’s an important point not to lose track of.”
In 2004, wind energy helped save 500 million gallons of water. Just last year, that number had grown tenfold to over 5 billion gallons. As more wind energy comes on line I Minnesota, the water savings will only continue to grow.