Let the Sunshine In

In today’s LA Times, solar energy in the Owens Valley is explored. See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-owens-solar2-2010feb02,0,2677831.story
The reduction in water deliveries from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles in recent years has also resulted in a significant loss in clean, hydroelectric energy from the project. This has exacerbated the State’s energy shortages, and something is needed to replace lost electricity. Enter solar power.
It’s a little odd that we are seeking sunlight in the same area where we are seeking rain water. But relatively little rain actually falls in the Owens Valley (an average of only 5 inches per year!) — it, too, is a desert, and thus an excellent place to look for solar energy.
So why did William Mulholland and the LADWP build an aqueduct to the desert? The Owens Valley gets little precipitation because it is in the “rain shadow” of the Sierra Nevada. The Sierras get lots of rain and snow, with most of the runoff heading west into the San Joaquin Valley. But a significant amount of the runoff also heads east into the Owens Valley. Even in a dry year, water is flowing in the streams that lead into the valley, providing a very reliable source of water, despite the low rainfall.
So the Owens Valley could be that rare location where solar energy can be harvested along with a reliable water supply.

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