Solar & Wind Fight Pendulum Swings of Drought

December 27, 2019

The severe drought that impacted California’s agricultural industry lasting five years between 2012 and 2016 ended with an evacuation of 200,000 Californians under threat of severe flooding when it broke with record rainfalls. During that time, the drought cost California farmers $1.5 billion in just 2014 alone from lower production yields and higher water pumping costs (some areas seeing water costs go up tenfold).  

Unfortunately, it appears that California has not seen the end of these pendulum swings between extended and extreme wet and dry seasons, as they are expected to only get worse in the future. The National Integrated Drought Information System looked at 'moderate drought' conditions. It classified the 2011 drought as actually lasting for 376 weeks, from December of 2011 until this last March 2019, when more than 75% of the state of California was in some level of drought conditions. Even in 2019, when the wet spring seemed to provide a much need reprieve, the fall in Sacramento swung back to dry with only two recorded days in September totaling 0.12 inches of rainfall since May.  

Stanford University's Director of Urban Water Policy, Newsha Ajami, commented that regardless of drought conditions, conserving water should be an everyday practice - "The reality is we will be going in and out of drought over time... We can't use wastewater for purposes that are not necessary." Homeowners are doing their best in the wake, as urban water usage is down about 13% since 2013.  

As the Golden State has used hydroelectric power since 1887, if there is hope for California's water supply, it also lies in finding alternative renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power, that the state can use to improve water sustainability during times of drought.

How Hydroelectric Power Worsens Drought

Hydroelectric power accounts for 13.51% of California's total system power. However, over half of all hydropower plants have to compete with irrigation water use. Hydroelectric dams and plants are often upstream from the farms and agricultural businesses that rely on the water released from upstream reservoirs. 

As water is stored to even out hydroelectric power production, farms are forced to increase their use of groundwater systems. This means that during a drought disaster, groundwater is quickly depleted, creating competition (and tension) between California's power supply and one of the most significant agricultural production economies in America. 

How Solar & Wind Energy Can Help in Drought Conditions

State agencies have taken a harder stance on drought disaster management by regulating water preservation and conservation for both farmers and civilians. Reducing California's reliance on hydroelectric as a power source can lessen the strain that future droughts put on farmers and homeowners alike. So how can we further reduce our dependence on hydroelectric power? 

A recent Princeton study recommends policymakers in California pursue "further deployment of solar and wind energy." By expanding California's solar energy and wind energy capacity into the grid energy mix, hydroelectric power sources will not need to withhold as much reservoir water, decreasing farmer's reliance on groundwater abstraction.

California is leading the way of legislating renewable energy sources, like requiring all new home construction to include solar and setting a goal of 100% clean electric power by 2045.

How Homeowners Can Help Reduce the Effects of Drought

In addition to diversifying California's clean energy portfolio, there are still things Californians can do to upgrade their drought resilience. 

Reduce Outdoor Water Consumption

As previously stated, Californians are using less water in urban areas. There is more that can be done to conserve water throughout the state, like these 8 Water Saving Landscape Ideas that include desert and xeriscaping and artificial turf, which increase your outdoor water efficiency and reducing water waste.

Install Solar

Installing a system of solar panels can reduce your overall energy costs and carbon footprint, and reduce your reliance on California's power grid. This, in turn, reduces the need for grid-supplied hydroelectric power during drier periods. 

Install A Home Small Wind Turbine

If you have ample space on your property and the right amount of wind, installing a small wind turbine can help lower your energy bills by 50% - 90%, as well as your lower carbon footprint. Like solar, wind energy aids in ground source water sustainability. 

Utilizing PACE Financing for Home Solar & Wind Energy

Drought-resistant landscapingsolar PV installation, and small wind turbine systems all qualify for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. Through PACE, you can get access to 100% of the upfront costs of your renewable energy upgrade, at a fixed, low-interest rate. 

With Renew Financial, you can do your part in reducing California's carbon footprint and helping to prevent some of the harmful effects of agricultural droughts.

The energy created from solar and wind can help your home as well as the state of California during wet/dry swings. Ask Renew Financial about PACE qualifying renewable energy upgrades.