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3.3.3. Solar power plants

Limited water availability can also affect the expansion of solar power. Solar PV has very low water needs, mainly for cleaning solar panels. In contrast, concentrated solar power (CSP), which is more suitable for delivering baseload electricity, requires substantial freshwater for its steam turbines (INEA, 2018). Reduced availability of freshwater could therefore result in power losses. There are several adaptation options that reduce water consumption. They include alternative cooling technologies such as dry-cooling and repurposing of excess water from thermal power generation to clean mirror components (Frisvold and Marquez, 2014).

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Box 3.1 Synergies between adaptation and mitigation in water-scarce regions

Adaptation and mitigation objectives in the energy system can be in conflict with each other. However, the expansion of renewable energy is a good example for synergies between adaptation and mitigation objectives at the water-energy-nexus. In many regions in southern Europe, water needs for agriculture, industry, energy, tourism and household consumption are increasing while water availability is decreasing due to climate change. In this situation, replacing fossil power plants by renewable energy sources with low water use can be a win-win strategy to decrease water scarcity. Figure 3‑2 shows that as energy production from renewables in Spain and Greece has increased, freshwater abstractions for power production has decreased. Obviously, the relationship between the two variables depends on the particular choice of renewable energy sources.

Figure 3‑2: Water abstractions for power production and primary production of renewable energy in Spain (left) and Greece (bottom)


Source: Based on data from (Eurostat, 2018a).

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