Connection between Solar Energy and Water Use

Three University of Arizona experts will discuss solar energy and its effects on local water resources and wildlife habitat in the talk, "A Drop on the Bucket: Making the Connection between Solar Energy and Water Use in Arizona," on Monday.

The talk is designed to provide information about the interplay between renewable energy and land use and water supply in the region.

It will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Yuma Agricultural Center Auditorium, 6425 W. 8th St.

Kurt Nolte of the university’s Yuma County Cooperative Extension called the topic timely "in light of the recent interest in solar energy and its effect on the environment."

Nolte said that the researchers will travel to Yuma "to present research-based information regarding solar energy and the environment."

The topic is relevant because the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a Renewable Energy Standard in 2006, requiring regulated electric utilities to generate 15 percent of their energy from renewable resources like solar and wind by 2025.

Meeting this standard with a combination of concentrated and distributed solar power will require local water resources but will present fewer environmental problems than other energy sources tend to create, according to a news release.

"Western Arizona represents an area with great solar power development potential, ample surface water supplies, and low projected growth in urban water demand," the release said.

In their talk, researchers George Frisvold, Ardeth Barnhart and Gregg Garfin will place solar energy water use in the broader context of overall water use, compare how different types of electricity generation affect water use and the environment, discuss implications of energy development for water supplies and explain how climate variability affects water resources.

Frisvold, a professor and extension specialist with the UA Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, has examined agricultural water use and management, as well as the economics of new technologies. He co-wrote "The Economics of Climate, Water, and Energy Challenges in the American Southwest," published earlier this year.

Ardeth Barnhart, a program director for Renewable Energy, UA Institute of the Environment, directs the university’s sustainable energy network and renewable energy policy program. She is conducting a pilot project for solar desalination in northwestern Arizona in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the UA College of Engineering.

Gregg Garfin of the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment studies climate variability and change and climate impacts on society. He is a member of Arizona’s Drought Monitoring Committee.

Mara Knaub,