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California begins covering canals with solar panels to fight drought

01.09.2022 05:46 AM
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California begins covering canals with solar panels to fight drought
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California begins covering canals with solar panels to fight drought

The US state of California is preparing to implement a pilot project aimed at installing solar panels over the canals of the Turlock waterway.

Turlock Irritation District will be the first water agency in the country to pilot Project Nexus, which is based on a study conducted by Solar AquaGrid through the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and the California Water Resources Institute.

Next fall will see the laying of the foundation stone for the project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2024, according to the Turlock Journal.

Advantages of installing solar panels

The study, published in the March issue of Nature Sustainability, found several advantages to installing solar panels over open water channels.

Solar panels over California canals

It showed that covering nearly 4,000 miles of California's waterways with solar panels could reduce evaporation by up to 82%.

This will save approximately 63 billion gallons of water annually, equivalent to the amount needed to irrigate 50,000 acres of water or meet the water needs of more than two million people.

In addition to its ability to generate 13 gigawatts of renewable energy annually, which is equivalent to about one-sixth of the current installed capacity in the country, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.

In this regard, the study's author, Brandi L. McQueen, said that using aqueducts for solar infrastructure will conserve water, benefit in the production of renewable electricity and stop the use of large areas of land for the development of solar energy.

Solar AquaGrid is pleased to partner with Turlock, the Water Resources Department and the University of California.

She explained that the preliminary study revealed that installing solar panels over open channels can save huge amounts of water, electricity and costs compared to solar energy systems installed on the ground.

Meet goals

Turlock is partnering with the California Department of Water Resources, Solar AquaGrid and the University of California on the $20 million project, funded by the State of California.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Turlock Agency said that his organization always seeks to implement innovative projects that benefit its approximately 103,000 customers, stressing that it will continue to implement new pilot projects that have the ability to meet its goals related to the sustainability of water and electricity.

Solar panels over California canals

A project to install solar panels over the Turlock canals - Photo from Modesto Be

While UCSD professor Roger Pallis explained that the project will help address California's core weaknesses while meeting the state's goals for renewable energy production, land conservation, lower greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation.

Promote renewable energy

The project will use Turlock's existing infrastructure to cut costs, and include the use of daytime batteries to store energy from the sun, to subsequently support the local electricity grid.

The Water Resources Department will oversee project management, provide technical assistance and act as a research partner.

"We are excited to explore new sources, to promote the inclusion of renewable energy in our water supply delivery systems," said Carla Nemeth, Director of the Water Resources Department.

"The project offers huge potential, and we look forward to collaborating with our local and academic partners to promote these important projects."

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