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Solar Panels to Cover Irrigation Canals in California

Central California is to become a home to another innovative pilot project — covering irrigation canals with solar panels. 

Initially dismissed as a wild thought, the project will provide deeper insight into all the benefits of covering canals. 

According to InHabitat, covering California’s 4,000-mile network with panels would generate 13 gigawatts of solar power. In return, panels would save up to 63 billion gallons of water from evaporating every year. 

statement
“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.”

Such an approach would be beneficial for both the state and local communities. 

For the duration of the project, researchers will be analyzing the reduction of water evaporation, water quality improvements, reduction of maintenance costs, and generation of clean energy.  

The ultimate goal of the project is to weigh the benefits of covering canals with solar panels against other uses of canal covers.

According to UC Merced Professor Roger Bales, the Solar AquaGrid will help tackle California’s vulnerabilities by offering a two-in-one solution to the state’s water-energy puzzle.

The good news is that in the long run, the project could easily meet federal government requirements for the generation of renewable energy, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and preservation of habitats — all towards mitigating climate change.

Nikola uses his background in electrical engineering to break down complex sustainability topics for GreenCitizen's readers. He is a firm believer in environmental conservation, which he practices daily through recycling and home-grown food. He enjoys hiking, engaging in white-water sports, and collecting pocket knives.


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