Published on December 9th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer2
Dried-Up Owens Lake to Get Remedial Solar Array
December 9th, 2009 by Susan Kraemer
In probably the first ever example of using solar for environmental remediation, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power wants to try using a small 50-MW photovoltaic plant at Owens Lake for dust control.
They want to see if it can help stabilize the swirling dust and toxic salts that remain on the dried-up lake, reducing the amount of scarce California water the LADWP must use to periodically flood the former lake. Owens Lake was drained dry to supply Los Angeles in the early 1900s, leaving behind a massive salt flat.
The initial project is small: a 616-acre solar farm that would use less than 1 percent of the 110-square-mile lakebed. It will generate 100,000 MWh of electricity annually – only about 0.5 percent of LA electricity needs, and would be a twofer, generating electricity, while sharing a much reduced water supply, for cleaning the arrays.
Because it is a small and unusual test, the LADWP Commissioners agreed to waive the normally lengthy and expensive environmental review, in order to get the project up and running by the end of 2011. All they need to do is sign a lease with the State Lands Commission. They are feeling the deadline of 2020 looming. By then, they must have 1,280 MW of solar power to meet the state Renewable Portfolio Standard.
But, since the idea is to test it for a larger project, they plan on working closely with environmentalists in the Eastern Sierra region, and to keep them in the loop.
If this unusual solar farm does work as expected, keeping dust down, while using less water, then the next step would be to build a 400 MW solar farm on the site.
Image: Laura Hamilton