Lack of water is a huge problem in vast portions of the United States, where there is hardly enough to go around after the farms, ranches and cities have gotten their fill. So it really makes no sense that we waste massive amounts of water in order to generate thermal power. In fact, running these plants require four times more water than that used by every citizen in the country combined. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had an alternative energy source that is clean, efficient and uses significantly less water? You know, something like photovoltaic solar power?
In 2008, every single day thermal power plants used up 2.8 – 5.9 billions of gallons of water. Between them, the plants actually withdrew 60 to 170 billion gallons, though most of that water is returned to rivers and lakes. The problem with that is that much of the water in the west comes from underground aquifers, some of which are very slow to replenish, if they do at all. After the water is used, waste water isn’t returned underground. In addition to that, when the water is deposited into the rivers, it is warmer than it would be naturally, which can harm wildlife. On the other end, water intake systems can trap and kill aquatic life.
PV solar power, meanwhile, requires hardly a drop of water save that used to manufacture the panels and clean them – depending on each plant’s methods. Out west – where drought threatens water supplies more and more each year – many of the states receive more sunshine than anywhere else in the U.S., which makes those areas ideally suited for solar power and particularly unsuited for thermal.
In California, estimates from SolarCity through the Solar Power Initiative show that solar power has saved 684 gallons of water alone for the state. Seems like a bit of a no brainer.