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Title: Solar Energy Development and Aquatic Ecosystems in the Southwestern United States: Potential Impacts, Mitigation, and Research Needs

Abstract

The cumulative impacts of utility-scale solar energy facilities on aquatic ecosystems in the Southwestern United States are of concern, considering the many existing regional anthropogenic stressors. We review the potential impacts of solar energy development on aquatic habitat and biota. The greatest potential for impacts is related to the loss, fragmentation, or prolonged drying of ephemeral water bodies and drainage networks resulting from the loss of desert washes within the construction footprint of the facility. Groundwater-dependent aquatic habitat may also be affected by operational groundwater withdrawal in the case of water-intensive solar technologies. Solar panels have also been found to attract aquatic insects and waterbirds, potentially resulting in mortality. Avoiding construction activity near perennial and intermittent surface waters is the primary means of reducing impacts on aquatic habitats, followed by measures to minimize erosion, sedimentation, and contaminant inputs into waterways. Currently, significant data gaps make solar facility impact assessment and mitigation more difficult. Examples include the need for more regional and site-specific studies of surface–groundwater connectivity, more detailed maps of regional stream networks and riparian vegetation corridors, as well as surveys of the aquatic communities inhabiting ephemeral streams. In addition, because they often lack regulatory protection, there is also amore » need to develop valuation criteria for ephemeral waters based on their ecological and hydrologic function within the landscape. By addressing these research needs, we can achieve the goal of greater reliance on solar energy, while at the same time minimizing impacts on desert ecosystems.« less

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) - Office of Solar Energy Technology (SETO)
OSTI Identifier:
1395151
DOE Contract Number:  
AC02-06CH11357
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Environmental Management
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 55; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 0364-152X
Publisher:
Springer
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Grippo, Mark, Hayse, John W., and O’Connor, Ben L. Solar Energy Development and Aquatic Ecosystems in the Southwestern United States: Potential Impacts, Mitigation, and Research Needs. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.1007/s00267-014-0384-x.
Grippo, Mark, Hayse, John W., & O’Connor, Ben L. Solar Energy Development and Aquatic Ecosystems in the Southwestern United States: Potential Impacts, Mitigation, and Research Needs. United States. doi:10.1007/s00267-014-0384-x.
Grippo, Mark, Hayse, John W., and O’Connor, Ben L. Tue . "Solar Energy Development and Aquatic Ecosystems in the Southwestern United States: Potential Impacts, Mitigation, and Research Needs". United States. doi:10.1007/s00267-014-0384-x.
@article{osti_1395151,
title = {Solar Energy Development and Aquatic Ecosystems in the Southwestern United States: Potential Impacts, Mitigation, and Research Needs},
author = {Grippo, Mark and Hayse, John W. and O’Connor, Ben L.},
abstractNote = {The cumulative impacts of utility-scale solar energy facilities on aquatic ecosystems in the Southwestern United States are of concern, considering the many existing regional anthropogenic stressors. We review the potential impacts of solar energy development on aquatic habitat and biota. The greatest potential for impacts is related to the loss, fragmentation, or prolonged drying of ephemeral water bodies and drainage networks resulting from the loss of desert washes within the construction footprint of the facility. Groundwater-dependent aquatic habitat may also be affected by operational groundwater withdrawal in the case of water-intensive solar technologies. Solar panels have also been found to attract aquatic insects and waterbirds, potentially resulting in mortality. Avoiding construction activity near perennial and intermittent surface waters is the primary means of reducing impacts on aquatic habitats, followed by measures to minimize erosion, sedimentation, and contaminant inputs into waterways. Currently, significant data gaps make solar facility impact assessment and mitigation more difficult. Examples include the need for more regional and site-specific studies of surface–groundwater connectivity, more detailed maps of regional stream networks and riparian vegetation corridors, as well as surveys of the aquatic communities inhabiting ephemeral streams. In addition, because they often lack regulatory protection, there is also a need to develop valuation criteria for ephemeral waters based on their ecological and hydrologic function within the landscape. By addressing these research needs, we can achieve the goal of greater reliance on solar energy, while at the same time minimizing impacts on desert ecosystems.},
doi = {10.1007/s00267-014-0384-x},
journal = {Environmental Management},
issn = {0364-152X},
number = 1,
volume = 55,
place = {United States},
year = {2014},
month = {10}
}