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California to cover canals with solar panels to combat drought, climate change


Two issues on California’s want listing – extra water and extra vitality – may quickly include a first-in-the-nation plan to cowl irrigation canals with photo voltaic panels.

The venture, which goals to avoid wasting water by lowering evaporation from canals whereas producing renewable vitality, is small, masking almost two miles of waterways within the Central Valley. The hope, nevertheless, is to display the easy however largely untested idea in order that it may be adopted by agricultural and concrete water suppliers throughout the state, and past.

The California Division of Water Assets is funding a $20 million pilot program with the purpose of figuring out the place photo voltaic panels can go dwell alongside the state’s 4,000 miles of canals and aqueducts. California’s water transportation community is without doubt one of the largest on the earth, that means nice potential for the thought. The necessity for extra water and carbon-free vitality is exacerbated by drought and local weather warming.

“Driving in LA you see the aqueducts and you’ll’t assist however think about how a lot water is misplaced to evaporation,” mentioned Jordan Harris, cofounder and CEO of Photo voltaic AquaGrid, the Marin County firm that designs and manages within the demonstration venture close to It’s positioned within the county of Stanislaus County and the state of Sacramento, within the southeastern a part of the nation, 90 km southeast of Sacramento, the capital of the nation.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” he mentioned. “We use immediately’s applied sciences and we use them otherwise. We simply make these utility corridors work tougher and supply extra advantages.

The irrigation canal at one of the proposed sites of Project Nexus in Ceres (Stanislaus County).

The irrigation canal at one of many proposed websites of Undertaking Nexus in Ceres (Stanislaus County).

Carlos Avila Gonzalez, Workers Photographer / The Chronicle

The hassle, known as Undertaking Nexus, is the results of a examine revealed final 12 months by researchers at UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz that discovered the imaginative and prescient of “photo voltaic canals” may present actual advantages. Photo voltaic AquaGrid commissioned the analysis.

In accordance with the examine, revealed within the journal “Nature Sustainability,” by masking all the state’s water supply channels with photo voltaic panels, evaporation can be lowered by 90%, saving about 63 billion gallons of water. in a 12 months – the equal of what’s utilized by as many as 3 million folks.

As for energy technology, the authors estimate that putting in the arrays above the state‘s canals and aqueducts would produce about 13 gigawatts of vitality — roughly one-sixth of California’s present capability. The brand new vitality will assist the state meet its targets of transitioning to carbon-free energy in addition to increase provides to assist stop the sort of grid shortages seen throughout final summer season. wave.

A rendering of solar panels installed in a canal in California's Central Valley, an idea brought to life by Project Nexus.

A rendering of photo voltaic panels put in in a canal in California’s Central Valley, an concept delivered to life by Undertaking Nexus.

Courtesy of Photo voltaic AquaGrid

The examine particulars different advantages, too. Huge tracts of costly new land should not wanted to generate photo voltaic vitality, lowering the talk over whether or not to transform farmland or clear desert for big arrays. Photo voltaic panels within the canals additionally work extra effectively as a result of the water cools them.

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