The Path to Drawdown: Irrigation and Smart Grid
Irrigating farmlands is energy intensive. Agriculture consumes 70% of the world’s freshwater and irrigation is essential for 40% of the world’s food production. Pumping and distributing all of that water requires lots of energy, and most forms of energy generation are sources of carbon emissions.
Flood irrigation, where water is allowed to run down the field by gravity, is the least efficient method. Drip and sprinkler methods are far more efficient, yielding water and GHG savings as high as 25% and 40%, respectively.
Today, the use of sprinkler and drip irrigation varies widely around the world, from 50% of farm area in high-income countries to 7% in lower-income countries in Asia and Africa.
Project Drawdown projects that a rapid adoption of efficient irrigation techniques can lead to a wide reduction in GHG emissions:
- <::marker> In 2018, 53.8 million hectares were irrigated using efficient methods
- <::marker> By 2050, 187.7-286.5 million hectares should be watered using these methods, with the highest adoption increases occurring in Asia
- <::marker> This can help avoid 1.1-2.1 gigatons of CO2 emissions and save 37-68 billion gallons of water by 2050
Renewables like solar and wind are the promising alternatives to fossil fuel-based energy, and they’re quickly expanding their capacity worldwide. But to provide reliable clean energy to every household and organization, we need a smart power grid.
The power grid is the dynamic network of power generation, transmission, distribution, storage, and consumption. Today’s power grid was designed more than a century ago, when electricity needs were simpler. It relies on a handful of (mostly fossil fuel-based) power stations, and electricity only flows one way from power stations, to transmission stations, and finally to consumers.
This centralized, one-way grid system is economically inefficient because consumers often can’t plan for the fluctuations in the price of electricity throughout the day. It’s vulnerable to blackouts when power lines break or when power stations can’t generate enough power to fulfil demand. It doesn’t easily integrate renewables like solar and wind power, whose electricity generation is intermittent.
The smart grid can overcome these weaknesses. By integrating sensors and software to the existing grid, it gives utilities and consumers the information they need to understand and quickly react to changes in the supply and demand of electricity. With smart meters, consumers can plan their electricity usage according to its price, lowering the cost of electricity to households and overall demand during critical periods. Through data and automation, the smart grid can integrate and optimize solar and wind generation, even with their intermittent nature. This also means power generation becomes decentralized and adaptable, reducing the likelihood of blackouts and price fluctuations.