California Plans to Install Solar Panels over Canals


Due to extreme drought conditions despite severe storms and a wet winter, California plans to install solar panels over canals. Researchers have discovered that the situation can be improved by controlling the evaporation of water from canals.

This week a proposal from President Joe Biden raised the possibility of new water cuts for California. The state is trapped in between severe storms followed by extreme droughts. Despite a very wet winter, California is facing water scarcity.

A new state funded project is looking for a new possible way out of this drought situation. The project is operational in San Joaquin Valley and gives the idea of covering the canals with solar panels. Yes, all canals and aqueducts in the state to be covered with solar panels to reduce evaporation and generate renewable energy simultaneously.

Jordan Harris, CEO and co-founder of Solar AquaGrid said, “If you drive up and down the state, you see a lot of open canals. And after year after year of drought it seemed an obvious question: How much are we losing to evaporation?

It’s just common sense in our eyes. This is a global issue, and potentially a big contributor to a global solution to evaporative losses and renewable energy generation at the same time.”

Solar AquaGrid is a Bay Area based company working and designing the initiative. This project is a collaboration between researchers with the University of California, the Turlock Irrigation District, and Solar AquaGrid. They will analyze and track the findings.

The Californian Department of Water Resources funded 20 million dollars to test the initiative in Stanislaus County. Also, to determine where else among the 4,000 miles of canals in the state would it be most beneficial to install the solar panels.

Roger Bales, an engineering professor at UC Merced and a specialist in water and climate research, said, “This hasn’t been tried in the U.S. before. We want these to eventually be scaled across the western U.S., where we have a lot of irrigated agriculture and open canals.”

Actually, there was a study conducted and published by Bales and his colleagues in 2021. It determined that covering canals in the state with solar panels could reduce about 90% evaporation.

With this, the state can save 63 billion gallons of water per year. This is enough to meet the residential requirements of more than 2 million people. Other possible upsides identified by the team were large amounts of energy generation along with temperature control of solar panels by being near the water.

Also Read: California Power Grid Giving Second Life to Numerous EV Batteries

Also, it will reduce algae growth along with limiting maintenance charges by limiting sunlight. It will also improve air quality at large. And people who have canals on their land will also benefit from installed solar panels.

This fall, the project is expected to become operational starting with 2 miles of canals in the Central Valley district. They are curious about the outcome and are willing to replicate the design. As California plans to install solar panels over canals, it can benefit the state in many ways.

Source: Solar AquaGrid Linkedin Post

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