The Dark Side of Green Energy
Posted on Sep 30, 2009
Renewable energy projects are sprouting up across the country, much to the delight of environmentalists. Or is it? Green power, it turns out, is very thirsty. Developers are requesting billions of gallons of water annually to cool, cleanse and maintain their solar farms and other projects—billions more than we may have.
Water usage isn’t the only speed bump on the road to an oil-free energy grid. In California, a desert tortoise managed to scrap plans to build a major solar plant in the Mojave Desert.
Environmentalists are running up against themselves as green energy transitions from a pipe dream to a real industry with its own interests—and lobbyists.
The country is eager for renewable power, but sometimes, as in California, slow and steady wins the race. —PS
New York Times:
Here is an inconvenient truth about renewable energy: It can sometimes demand a huge amount of water. Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year.
“When push comes to shove, water could become the real throttle on renewable energy,” said Michael E. Webber, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin who studies the relationship between energy and water.
Flickr / langalex
Solar plants designed around heating a tower (as above) instead of a trough use much less water, but water is still a scarce commodity in the deserts where these projects are ideally located.