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Energy-Water Nexus

Water is required to produce energy. Energy is required to pump, treat, and transport water. The energy-water nexus examines the interactions between these two inextricably linked sectors.

A cartoon showing the nexus of water and energy using red and blue arrows to indicate the flow water and energy through generation, fuel production, and consumption.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, 2006

NREL helps policymakers, researchers, and investors understand and evaluate energy choices within this complex web of connections between energy and water. NREL's analysis, datasets, and advanced integrated modeling capabilities help illuminate the connections between energy, environment, economy, security, and quality of life.

NREL is exploring a unique system-of-systems concept to energy systems integration (ESI). This approach considers the relationships among electricity, thermal, and fuel systems and data and information networks to ensure optimal integration and interoperability across the entire energy system spectrum. This ESI framework can be adapted to evaluate energy and water system interactions. To learn more about NREL's energy system integration research, visit the Energy Systems Integration Facility website.

Energy-Water Modeling and Analysis

NREL's energy-water modeling and analysis activities analyze the interactions and dependencies of water with the dynamics of the power sector and the transportation sector. A variety of models and tools are utilized to consider water as a critical resource for power sector development and operations as well as transportation fuels.

Technology Development and Deployment

NREL has extensive experience and expertise related to energy-water technology research all along the supply chain. NREL has designed alternative cooling systems to reduce water needs on-site, developed anti-soiling coatings to reduce wash water needs for solar technologies, explored desalination opportunities utilizing renewable energy technologies, investigated marine hydrokinetic technology opportunities and characteristics, and evaluated manufacturing systems for various technologies.

Energy-Water System Solutions

NREL has been a pioneer in the development of energy-water system solutions that explicitly address and optimize energy-water tradeoffs. NREL has evaluated energy-water system solutions for Department of Defense bases, islands, communities recovering from disasters, individual buildings and campuses, and large-scale water treatment and transport facilities.


Jordan Macknick | 303-275-3828