Saves water, generates power. What could be better?
First in nation project puts solar panels over California canals
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
Who doesn’t love a twofer?
In terms of solar power, we’ve reported on a couple of them. In fact, the first — solar panels placed over reservoirs in China — is a triple threat; it generates power, saves valuable land in that crowded country and prevents evaporation of water resources. The second is where farm animals graze under elevated solar panels, both feeding themselves and keeping the grass down.
Well, here’s another. With every drop of water crucial in increasingly parched California — and renewable power a state priority — a water and electricity utility in the center part of the state is to hang solar panels over stretches of the thousands of miles of canals that transport water from the Sierra Nevada. The panels, of course, generate power while their shadow diminishes water loss from the conduits.
The utility, the Turlock Irrigation District (TID), which is located in the center of the Central Valley, has received a $20 million grant from the state for the first-in-the-nation venture, which has been named Project Nexus and based on research at the Merced and Santa Cruz campuses of the University of California and published last year in the journal Nature Sustainability.
Covering all the canals in the state with solar panels, the study found, could save 63 billion gallons of water annually, about the amount needed to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or to supply 2 million people with their water needs. And fortunately, the canals already have embedded power lines, thus making the transfer simple, though batteries are planned to store excess power generated in the daytime.
At first, only two canal segments near Modesto would be covered by the suspended panels, generating enough power for around 100,000 homes. However, TID said the pilot, scheduled to be completed in 2024, is intended to serve as a proof-of-concept of effectiveness as well determining installation and upkeep costs, with the aim of expanding the concept to other areas of the state.
Totes rad, dude!