200 Million Gallons of Water per Hour Used to Stream Live Earth Concert

Like a moth to light, I am a sucker for music charity events. Who can forget Live Aid? I remember some seminal moments in that concert, such as watching Sting play solo Message in the Bottle (See the video). Also, Bono at age 25 jumping off the stage to connect with the audience (See the video) which launched U2 from ordinary Irish rockers to the pantheon of international Rock and Roll gods.

It was with some anticipation today that I had Live Earth streaming from our computer throughout the day. I did my best to keep my two year old from turning the computer off and tried to deflect a question from my 4 year old during the Police performance of Roxanne on what does it “mean to turn on the red light?”. Bon Jovi, Dave Mathews Band, Smashing Pumpkins, and, of course, The Police were all great.

I guess its debatable whether folks will actually change or help to empower change from all this green energy today. I think most folks, like me, just wanted to listen to the music. As I watched tonight I thought about how much water was used by folks, like me, streaming the concert. Here are my assumptions and calculations:

  • Web Streaming Audience: 9 million streams (From Reuters Article)
  • MB of data each minute streamed: 4 MB per minute (From Forum Comment)
  • MB of date streamed in an hour: 240 MB/hr
  • Total MB Streamed per hour: 2,160,000,000 MB/hr
  • Internet Fuel Rating: 1 lb of coal per 2MB of Data (From Forbes Article Dig More Coal)
  • Coal Burned per hour: 540,000 Tons of Coal Needed/hour
  • Coal Fuel Efficiency : A 500 MW plant uses 250 tons of coal per hour & uses 12 MGD (.5 million gallons/hr) of cooling water (DOE Study)
  • Total 500 MW Plants needed/hour: 2,160 plants/per hour
  • Amount of Water Used: 1 billion gallons of water/ per hour
  • Assuming a coal plant’s cooling facilities recycles 80% of the water, only 20% of the water is actually used or evaporated.

Therefore, total water used today for streaming Live Earth Concert to computers if all the energy came from coal plants would be 200 million gallons per hour.

Wow, that really seems high!