Consideration of Impacts on Water Quality and Quantity in the WREZ Process (2003)

Throughout much of the Western U.S., water is a scarce resource. Growing cities and power plants often compete directly with the agricultural sector - and environmental needs - for limited water supplies. Developing new, renewable energy supplies will have varied impacts on water resources. It is important that, in the process, renewable energy development does not contribute to or exacerbate water supply and quality challenges.

Like conventional thermal plants that generate electricity in steam turbines, solar thermal plants primarily use water to cool, condense, and capture steam. In many places, dry cooling may be feasible for solar thermal plants. In sunny areas like Southern Nevada and Arizona, however, hot average temperatures may require that solar thermal plants use wet or hybrid cooling systems or accept decreased efficiency and increased costs for dry-cooling. Utility-scale solar PV uses a negligible amount of water, and will also help meet electricity demands without straining water supplies. 

In the following sections, we present: General information about the impact of renewable energy generation on water resources; methods for integrating water information into the Western Renewable Energy Zone (WREZ) processes and general siting principles; and recommended mitigation tactics.

Author: Stacy Tellinghuisen

Date: 2003

Pages: 4

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