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Dry-cooling Challenges Notion of Water Intensity for Desert Solar

solar parabolic2Many desert-based solar thermal power plants increasingly are being criticized for the amount of water they use, but a new dry-cooling technology may help make desert solar more feasible.

Solar Millenium LLC plans to use new dry-cooling technology at two plants outside Las Vegas. The technology was developed by parent firm Solar Trust of America LLC.

The two 242 megawatt concentrated solar power plants will be about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, according to a press release.

While not truly water-free, the dry-cooling technology requires about 90 percent less water than typical solar thermal plants.

Construction of the plants should commence by December of 2010, said Josef Eichhammer, President of Solar Trust of America, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of Solar Millennium LLC.

Each power plant will cost about $1.5 billion to build.

While California and other western states are pegging their energy future on renewables, including solar, that growth comes at a cost to the region’s already dwindling water supply.

Nearly 40 large solar farm projects are being considered in California, a state which increasingly has had to limit water for agriculture in favor of municipalities. To limit the problems, regulators are trying to convince solar operators to use dry cooling.

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