GE Reports Why water and energy are two sides of the same coin

GE’s water business has been integrated with its power business, largely because of the nexus between these two important issues.

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Top image: A solar thermal power concentrates heat from the sun to boil water and use the steam to generate electricity. Image credit: Getty Images Above: A life-size prototype of GE’s “sunrotor” on a shelf at GRC. This 10 megawatt prototype is the basis for the full-scale system which stores 100 megawatt-hours and generates power at 33 megawatt, Sanborn says. Image credit: GE Global Research play

Top image: A solar thermal power concentrates heat from the sun to boil water and use the steam to generate electricity. Image credit: Getty Images Above: A life-size prototype of GE’s “sunrotor” on a shelf at GRC. This 10 megawatt prototype is the basis for the full-scale system which stores 100 megawatt-hours and generates power at 33 megawatt, Sanborn says. Image credit: GE Global Research

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Though energy and water are both essential human needs, we tend to think of them as two separate issues which require separate solutions.

In reality, water and energy provision are inextricably linked. It takes energy to treat, filter and desalinate water for drinking, and to move water from dams or aquifers to farmland and cities. At the same time, water helps us to produce electricity, by cooling coal-fired power stations, powering hydro-electric plants and recovering fossil fuels such as oil and shale gas.

The connection between these two vital resources is not only experienced at an industrial scale.

 

In fact, it is felt deeply by millions of people across the African continent. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, around 300 million people suffer from water scarcity, out of a total population of 800 million. This means they have less than 1,000mᶟ per capita. With a rapidly rising population, Africa’s demand for water is becoming more urgent. Meanwhile, more than 620 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity. Instead, they rely on fuelwood, charcoal or paraffin for cooking and warmth. Supplying safe, reliable energy, in tandem with clean water, is a critical driver for Africa’s development.

Since 2008, GE’s water business has been integrated with its power business, largely because of the nexus between these two important issues.

GE’s engineers and technologists are developing advanced power generation technologies that limit the impact on water sources, while also creating water and wastewater management technologies that use energy in a sustainable way.

Beyond industrial-scale solutions, GE is also working to deploy technologies to help water-challenged communities improve access to clean drinking water. In places like Nigeria, GE technologists are working to deploy small, pre-engineered and compact systems, such as ZBOX water purification technology.

The company has also taken action to reduce its own water usage by 25% by 2015, using a 2006 baseline. A 45% reduction has so far been achieved.

Without a reliable source of power and a sufficient supply of water, society cannot grow and prosper. This growing demand is an unstoppable force that must be met with technologies that preserve our finite resources, while meeting the energy demands of a growing continent.

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