Policy Update

First in Science: Water Evaporation has Potential as a Renewable Energy Source



NCEL Point of Contact

Ava Gallo
Climate and Energy Program Manager


A study published in Nature Communications highlights a potential new renewable energy source – water evaporation. A team at Columbia University conducted a study using water responsive materials to turn evaporation into energy. These materials expand in the presence of humidity and this expanding and contracting creates mechanical energy that is turned into electricity. If fully implemented, models project the system could generate up to 70% of the United States’ current energy production, or 325 gigawatts of electricity.

The scientists also said the potential for this newfound energy source could help conserve water, especially in Western states like California and Arizona. In the United States alone, it could save 25 trillion gallons of water – equaling 20% of the country’s water consumption. So far this method has only been tested in a lab with models produced for its use across the country. The next step is to do a test on a body of water and then to address feasibility of the application.

Should evaporation prove to be a feasible and reliable energy source, it could help states who are looking to expand and grow the use of renewable energy. Please contact NCEL if you would like assistance with renewable energy efforts in your state.