Solar power/heat engine
A solar power heat engine or solar thermal plant, commonly (and confusingly) referred to as "concentrated solar power", is a method of converting sunlight into energy by using it to drive a heat engine of some kind and thereby to generate electricity. This is almost always done by concentrating it in order to make the conversion process efficient enough.
Solar thermal plants require cooling. This can either be done by air (using fans), or with water. The latter is more efficient and hence more profitable, but uses large quantities of water[S] and can therefore cause the plant to have a significant ecological impact -- especially in areas where water is scarce, such as deserts (which are also popular locations for solar plants due to the high availability of sunlight).
- 2011-05-27 [L..T] Water Use May Decide Future of Centralized Solar Power "Nuclear and coal may be big offenders, but wet-cooled concentrating solar power uses even more water per MWh of electricity generated. Dry-cooled CSP cuts water consumption significantly, but it's still far more than solar power from photovoltaics (or wind power)."
- 2009-10-02 [L..T] Water Sucking Solar Farms Breed Water Wars "Many solar projects consume enormous amounts of water. How much water are we talking? According to a recent New York Times article, proposed plans for two solar farms in Nevada would gulp up 1.3 billion gallons of water annually--or 20 percent of the area's available water."