A pilot project to cover irrigation canals with solar panels has been started in Central California. The project will help provide insight into the benefits of covering canals with solar panels. Initially conceived as a wild thought, the project received funding and will take shape this fall.
According to a study published by UC Merced researchers last year, covering all of California’s canals with solar panels would lead to about 4,000 miles of solar coverage. The panels would in turn save up to 63 billion gallons of water per year and generate 13 GW of solar at the same time. This is an approach that would provide win-win results for the state and locals in the long run.
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Water and electricity utility Turlock Irrigation District (TID) accepted the $20 million state funds provided for the pilot project on February 9. The utility company will conduct the project alongside the Department of Water Resources, UC Merced and Solar AquaGrid. To ensure that the project is sustainable, there will also be an energy storage facility for the project.
Project Nexus researchers will be tasked with analyzing the reduction of water evaporation, water quality improvements, reduction in maintenance costs and generation of renewable electricity. The system benefits will be weighed alongside the other uses it offers apart from just power generation.
“The Solar AquaGrid model provides a combined, integrated response to addressing our water-energy nexus,” said UC Merced Professor Roger Bales. ” [The project] helps address California’s underlying vulnerabilities.”
In the long run, the project will be used to meet federal government commitments such as the generation of renewable energy, preservation of natural habitats, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.
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