At the residential and commercial levels, poorly sited projects can result in reduced system performance, among other things; while at the utility scale, where a project is sited may result in increased costs associated with access to transmission, environmental impacts, and other potential conflicts.

Water Availability

Water availability is a critical issue with the potential to significantly impede utility-scale solar energy development in the desert southwest. Water constraints have prevented some proposed projects from moving forward and have caused some developers to modify technology selections, thereby increasing project-development timelines. Activities under this task will help quantify available water resources and provide a standardized water-resource management approach that can be used by developers and regulators. The compilation of water-resource data is similar to renewable energy resource assessment: both efforts are needed to stimulate projects and realize reductions in resource “prospecting” and project siting costs. The goal is to provide critical information about water resource availability and constraints.

Sandia National Laboratories is leading an effort that is supporting the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in their long-range-transmission planning. The focus of this particular project is on siting future power plant expansion in a way so as to minimize impacts on water resources in the West.

Water availability data will be analyzed and implications for solar development in the West. Results will be made available in the form of an end-of-the-year project report, disseminated to institutional stakeholders.

Visual impacts

Because of their large size and the highly reflective surfaces commonly used for solar collectors and other facility components, the siting and operation of utility-scale solar facilities may result in visual impacts to motorists, pilots, air-traffic controllers, and pedestrians. Potential ocular impacts from solar glare include distraction, after-image, and retinal burn (for concentrating reflectors). The U.S. Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have expressed concern regarding the effects of these visual impacts on safety for pilots and airports. In fact, the FAA recently stated that they will disallow any new solar installations (concentrating solar power and photovoltaics) until a more thorough analysis and ruling can be made regarding potential visual hazards associated with solar power plants near airports.

Sandia has extensive capabilities and experience in optical physics, and has published papers that assess and quantify the potential impacts from glint and glare, as well as providing technical guidance and analyses to address issues of glare for various agencies.

Sandia will develop a software tool that industry and other agencies can use to answer two fundamental questions pertaining to glare from solar PV installations: (1) Will glare occur (where and when)? and (2) If glare occurs, what is the potential ocular impact?