Rendering, Solar AquaGrid
California utilities are preparing to launch a pilot project to cover California’s irrigation canals with solar panels.
The decision was influenced by a landmark 2021 research paper by scientists at the Univ. California’s Santa Cruz crunched the numbers and found that the panels would save 63.5 billion gallons of water from evaporation each year by shading the running water.
Turlock Irrigation District Water & Power is developing two pilot canal projects: a 500-foot (152-meter) curved canal section near the town of Hickman and a second mile-long (1.6 km) canal in immediately nearby Ceres.
GNN reported last year that a UC Santa Cruz study found that for every megawatt of solar power generated during Turlock’s 290 days of average sunshine, a pair of panels on the canals could replace 15 to 20 diesel generators used to pump water along the canals.
The work called Project Nexus is planned to start in October this year with 20 million dollars of funding from the state treasury.
Similar to: Large water supplies are saved from evaporation when Solar Panels are built over canals
Duct-mounted panels have the added benefit of a longer functional life, preventing evaporation, reducing the land space needed for solar farms and increasing green energy production, as the water underneath keeps the undersides of the panels cooler.
The idea actually began in 2014 in the Indian state of Gujarat, when a pilot project covering 750 meters of canal area led to the creation of an entire canal-side solar plant in Vadodara district and another solar plant with a total capacity of 100 megawatts on the banks of the Narmada River.
Researchers in India found that water flowing under the panels also cooled them, preventing overheating and resulting in an average efficiency increase of 2-5%.
California has nearly 4,000 miles of canals that could generate up to 13 gigawatts of power, which would power about 750,000 homes, or half the size of Los Angeles.
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“It’s really exciting to test our hypothesis and the paper we published. We will have an opportunity to understand whether these benefits exist in the real world,” one of the lead investigators at UC Santa Cruz, Brandi McKuin, told Reuters.
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