John Kyl: All Forms of Solar Energy are not Equal

Posted on July 3, 2010

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Arizona’s junior senator, John Kyl, weighs in on the prospects of getting energy from the sun in the state that has an average of 300 sunny days per year.  Not all that shines is gold, though.  The solar power form of choice for utilities also happens to be a water guzzler, something of which the state has little.  From the Yuma Sun:

With its 300-plus days of sunshine annually, Arizona would seem a perfect place to produce solar power. Elected officials and solar developers alike are touting the positive effects of solar power in Arizona and the nation — claiming it will create hundreds of thousands of “green” jobs and replace energy production using fossil fuels with carbon-free energy.

Both federal and state governments have enacted policies to accelerate the deployment of solar energy in Arizona, including subsidies and a state requirement that utilities produce a certain percentage of their power from “renewable” energy.

The reality, however, is not that simple. While Arizona enjoys abundant sunshine, it is also burdened with limited water resources. Conventional concentrating solar power (CSP), the solar technology of choice for utility-scale solar-power generation, requires billions of gallons of water to produce electricity. It is, in fact, the most water-intensive method of all thermal energy produced today, consuming nearly twice as much water per megawatt hour as a coal-fire power plant.

Kyl goes on to explain that one of the current federal projects being fast-tracked in the state is this type of water guzzler.  And, much of the power it’s slated to produce will not be used by Arizonans at all, but instead will be delivered to California. 

While we are a state with the great potential for solar power, it needs to be the right kind of solar, one that doesn’t threaten our limited natural resources. The last thing we need is a rush to develop some “green” power plant that causes more stress on the state’s water supply than there already is.

Posted in: Arizona