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May 5, 2015

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Amargosa Valley solar plant to use less water

A California-based solar developer has abandoned plans to use one of the most water-intensive technologies at a solar thermal power plant it has planned for Amargosa Valley, the company announced Monday.

Solar Millennium is undergoing the environmental review process on its plans for two 242-megawatt concentrated solar thermal power generators along the main road through Amargosa Valley.

If the plant had gone forward with wet-cooled technology, as the company at first proposed, it would have used about 20,000 acre feet of water per year -- about 2.6 million gallons per megawatt generated.

Local farmers, residents and conservationists have complained that allowing just one solar developer to take so much water would imperil the aquifer, drain the springs that support endangered species and leave no water for other solar developers.

Dry-cooled solar thermal technology uses far less water -- about 130,340 gallons per megawatt.

The change came after talks with locals, the Bureau of Land Management and environmentalists, the company said.

“Solar Millennium has been an active and responsible corporate citizen in Nevada for many years and has worked closely with all stakeholders to address their concerns and arrive at a solution that works for all parties," Solar Millennium Chief Executive Officer Josef Eichhammer said in a statement. "We trust that this decision to employ dry-cooling will accelerate the approval process and enable us to begin construction and stimulate the local economy by December 2010.”

Lower water solar development of this type is being championed by Congresswoman Dina Titus, who last month introduced an amendment to the Solar Technology Roadmap Act to encourage development of solar technologies that consume minimal amounts of water.

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