Solar energy installations in deserts are on the rise, fueled by technological advances and policy changes. Deserts, with a combination of high solar radiation and availability of large areas unusable for crop production are ideal locations for large scale solar installations. For efficient power generation, solar infrastructures require large amounts of water for operation (mostly for cleaning panels and dust suppression), leading to significant moisture additions to desert soil. A pertinent question is how to use the moisture inputs for sustainable agriculture/biofuel production. We investigated the water requirements for large solar infrastructures in North American deserts and explored the possibilities for integrating biofuel production with solar infrastructure. In co-located systems the possible decline in yields due to shading by solar panels may be offsetted by the benefits of periodic water addition to biofuel crops, simpler dust management and more efficient power generation in solar installations, and decreased impacts on natural habitats and scarce resources in deserts. In particular, we evaluated the potential to integrate solar infrastructure with biomass feedstocks that grow in arid and semi-arid lands (Agave Spp), which are found to produce high yields with minimal water inputs. To this end, we conducted detailed life cycle analysis for these coupled agave biofuel - solar energy systems to explore the tradeoffs and synergies, in the context of energy input-output, water use and carbon emissions.
AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2012
- 0402 BIOGEOSCIENCES / Agricultural systems;
- 1834 HYDROLOGY / Human impacts;
- 1878 HYDROLOGY / Water/energy interactions;
- 1880 HYDROLOGY / Water management