Development of renewable energy resources is a national priority, and Nevada is aligning its research and development activities in support of this important national goal. Three quarters of electricity production in the U.S. is from fossil fuels, which generate one third of total U.S. greenhouse gases and increase dependency on global markets. Harnessing renewable energy, such as solar, could supply all the energy the U.S. needs. The abundant solar flux in Nevada makes it one of the best sources for solar energy generation in the world, and development of this energy source has potential to significantly diversify the economy of the state. Yet, any substantial harvesting of solar energy must consider its collateral impact on Nevada’s scarce water resources and sensitive desert environment. Understanding the nexus – or linkages – among solar energy development, limited water resources, and fragile environments is key to achieving benefits from solar energy in Nevada and the U.S.
To achieve large-scale societal benefits from renewable solar energy projects in arid lands, it is essential to understand how to maximize use of limited water supplies and minimize the impacts of energy development on sensitive environments. The Solar Nexus project is enabling an interdisciplinary team of engineers, hydrologists, biologists, ecologists, soil scientists, atmospheric scientists, and economists to develop research in five interrelated areas:
- Improve and develop innovative technologies to minimize water use at solar energy facilities;
- Determine desert ecosystem responses to the development of solar energy facilities;
- Develop sustainable water/wastewater approaches to support water needs for solar energy generation;
- Improve the development and reliability of renewable energy and solar energy supply with new interdisciplinary approaches;
- Accelerate the Nexus research with new and existing CI capabilities including advanced data services, real-time data streaming and visualization, data mining and analysis, image processing, data security, and cloud computing.”