Energy

Solar Power's Drinking Problem

| Fri Sep. 18, 2009 2:29 PM EDT

When basking in the warm moral glow of solar power, it's good to remember one of Barry Commoner's four laws of ecology. Commoner is one of the founders of the environmental movement -- although, for some reason, he's never received the credit he deserves.

The Commoner Law to keep in mind is: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

With solar power, I'd just expand Commoner's language to ensure that it includes the drinks.

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As reporter Stephanie Tavares points out in today's Las Vegas Sun, "Solar photovoltaic developers say their plants don't use much water, but 'much' is relative."

Especially in the desert, where, as Tavares points out, most solar power plants are being built.

She's written a great expose, well worth the read, particularly because of Tavares' admirable legwork in putting real numbers on words like "much."

I should point out that Tavares isn't trashing solar. She just makes a compelling case for considering all the environmental impacts of generating energy, no matter what the source.

You may also want to check out a piece in today's Phoenix Sun (my other writing vehicle), where we've got a story about the 25 largest photovoltaic plants on Earth. Guess how many are in the US? If you guessed more than 0, try a smaller number.

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Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger at Mother Jones and publisher of The Phoenix Sun, an online news service reporting on solar energy. He tweets @thephoenixsun.