EghtesadOnline: In a water-stressed country like Iran generating electricity via thermal power plants which consume massive amounts of water cannot be a viable option anymore.
Wetlands are vanishing, aquifers, rivers and lakes are drying up or becoming too polluted for safe use. Dwindling water resources and lack of sufficient fresh water is fast reaching a catastrophic level as a result of which a large number of people face acute water scarcity at least for three to four months in a year, especially in central regions including the ancient cities of Isfahan and Yazd.
An estimated 37 million people live in water-stressed regions, according to data issued by the Geological Survey & Mineral Explorations Organization of Iran.
However, renewable energy, solar power in particular, may now provide a more viable option not only to preserve water but also produce electricity, Financial Tribune reported.
According to energy experts, including Ebrahim Khoshgoftar, a member of the Electricity Producers Syndicate, the Montazer Ghaem Combined Cycle Plant in Alborz Province and the Isfahan Power Plant consume 39 and 65 million liters of water per day respectively, IRNA reported.
There is no denying the fact that the shift to solar from fossil fuel electricity generation can help save water and guarantee sustainable power production.
Energy Ministry surveys show that to meet domestic demand, close to 105 million cubic meters of water is required per annum only for power plants in the country.
Whereas fossil fuel power stations use water for their cooling systems (turbines and boilers) solar plants have no need for water at all.
This finding is particularly relevant in Iran, which has abundant solar resources but is grappling with a water crisis that is getting worse on a regular basis.
For solar energy to find its proper place on the domestic electricity map become effective in alleviating the water paucity, adequate funding and judicious planning are of critical importance.
The private sector is visibly uninterested in constructing solar power plants simply because it is not sure whether it will have government support and also whether the Energy Ministry will fulfill its financial commitments.
Reportedly, the administration had agreed to allocate $55 million to the sector in 2017, of which only $22 million was allotted to the key industry. Moreover, since the beginning of new fiscal in March, a paltry $3 million has been expended for renewable power projects.
According to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Organization—a state-owned body known as Satba—the share of renewables in Iran’s energy mix is 650 MW despite the fact that it has huge capacity to harness renewable energies, including geothermal, solar and wind power.
Iran is 4.5 times bigger than Germany. The number of sunny days throughout the year in Iran is four times as many as those in Germany, yet its share of power generated from solar energy is not comparable with the European nation which produces 41,000 megawatts of electricity from photovoltaic panels.
Another factor in support of promoting renewables is its ability to create much-needed jobs for the army of unemployed. Experts and environmentalists underscore this effect when opposing the existence and expansion of fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants.
According to Mohammad Sadeqzadeh, head of Satba, a normal-sized thermal power plant creates jobs for 400 people because the operations are automated and require fewer hands.
Nevertheless, a solar station can create more jobs as there is a lot of manual work involved. The renewable energy industry created more than 500,000 new jobs globally in 2017, a 5.3% increase from 2016, according to the latest figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The bottom line is that the sooner the nation expands renewable energy, the better prospects it will have to help conserve water for future generations, help improve living standards and create jobs.
Failing to realize this simple logic is not an option. So far a lot of precious time, money and energy has been wasted of periphery issues to the extent that the water crisis plus mismanagement of this key resource has emerged as the biggest challenge in the country of 80 million people.