Monday, July 20, 2009

Playing catch-up: Shameless self-promotion edition

This blogging business sometimes seems like you are having a conversation with 3 or 4 other people who share your interests. That makes it especially nice when, as a water-wonkish type, I have the chance to reach a wider audience with something I say or write. Two specific instances occurred for me recently. I had the privilege of writing a short piece for the current issue of Southwest Hydrology, on a topic that always sparks my interest - property rights in groundwater. My article was a brief discussion of a recent Arizona Supreme Court case that I discussed on the blog previously (here), involving an attempt to separate rights to pump groundwater from ownership of the land itself.

The second opportunity came as a result of various on-line discussions I have had with John Fleck, over at his Inkstain blog. John's day job is as a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal, where he writes on science in general, and frequently water, specifically. He had an article (may require viewing an ad to get to article) last month on the connection between solar power plans and water use, for which he interviewed and quoted yours truly. The article discussed the often overlooked fact that most utility-scale solar projects currently proposed or under construction in the West are of the Concentrating Solar Thermal variety. What that means is that the plants collect the sun's heat and use it to produce a hot liquid (typically some type of oil or molten salt) that is used to boil water and generate electricity with a standard steam turbine - just like traditional coal or natural gas power plants. The big difference between this type of plant and a photovoltaic solar plant is that CST plants use a lot of water (as do most power plants, for cooling purposes) while PV solar requires no water for operation. Unfortunately, these plants have to be built in places where the sun shines a lot and those places are often where water supplies are limited. It doesn't mean you shouldn't build the plant, but you have take water supplies into consideration when deciding where to site the plant to make the most effective use of water for it's operation.

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