Preserving the Environment

The Silver Lining to California’s Terrible Drought

February 17, 2014
The Silver Lining to California’s Terrible Drought
A tumbleweed lies in the sands of the Kern River which has been dried up by water diversion projects and little rain on February 4, 2014 in Bakersfield, California. Now in its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years. Grasslands that support cattle have dried up, forcing ranchers to feed them expensive supplemental hay to keep them from starving or to sell at least some of their herds, and farmers are struggling with diminishing crop water and what to plant or whether to tear out permanent crops which use water year-round such, as almond trees. About 17 rural communities could run out of drinking water within several weeks and politicians are are pushing to undo laws that protect several endangered species. David McNew/Getty Images
The Golden State is still meeting its power needs thanks to the power of the sun.

Who knew there would be a bright side to California’s devastating drought? As the sun beats down on the west coast and dries up everything in sight, the state’s solar energy is covering the drop in hydroelectricity, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Hydroelectricity plants — which are powered by flowing water — provide 15 percent of the state’s electricity. And while California’s recent rainfall was a much-needed break from the state’s drought worries, it wasn’t enough. This is why solar is more important than ever. “Solar not only helps California’s economy and environment, it’s also the smart way to go if you want to conserve water resources,” Solar Energy Industries Association spokesman Ken Johnson told the publication. “Solar panels use almost no water, while nuclear, coal and natural gas facilities can use thousands of gallons per megawatt hour, depending on the technology and the facility.”

MORE: How One City Is Stepping Up to Help Solve Our Fresh Water Worries

With no end in sight to the drought, at least the state has a fantastic source of renewable energy for its electric needs. “We’re going to have enough power to keep the lights on: We are not concerned about blackouts or outages,” Robert Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy Commission told the newspaper. “We are much less dependent on hydropower now than we were in the 1940s. In just the last year, we’ve added more than 1,000 megawatts of solar alone.”