There’s an interesting article in the NY Times about how a fight is brewing around the building of large solar farms and water rights in several states. Simply stated some large solar farms use water to cool the PV panels and can consume millions (and sometimes billions) of gallons of H2O per year.
This consumption of water especially in the southwest states of Arizona, Nevada, California and New Mexico may add a burden on these states to come up with what is needed. But, there are a couple of complications. First, environmentalists may not accept the diversion of water resources that can damage native fish and other wildlife populations.
Second, in states such as California that is coming close to rationing water in some parts of the state a large solar facility will add an extra burden. And, a third complication is that in places such as Nevada the water rights and property rights are separate.
So, this third complication may mean that farmers won’t want to give up their water rights to have a large solar farm constructed in their backyards. On the flip side, there are investors who have speculated in buying water rights on properties for the sole purpose on making money in selling these rights to a presumed nuclear or solar facility in the future.
The large solar companies are trying to keep these battles out of the courts by negotiating with the states, environmentalists and smaller water rights owners. But, with this much complexity and competing interests there is a high likelihood that a few judges will be brought into the mix for good measure.