California Canals Could Generate Enough Solar Energy to Power Los Angeles

California Canals Could Generate Enough Solar Energy to Power Los Angeles

A study estimates that covering California’s canals with solar panels could generate enough energy to power Los Angeles for most of the year. In 2015, during a severe drought in California, Governor Jerry Brown ordered a reduction in home water use and set a goal for the state to get half of its energy from renewable sources. Despite these efforts, entrepreneurs Jordan Harris and Robin Raj faced resistance when they proposed installing solar panels over irrigation canals. However, with the current crisis of heat, wildfires, and the growing commitment to combat climate change, their company Solar AquaGrid is now preparing to start the first solar-covered canal project in the United States.

A study by the University of California, Merced estimates that covering California’s canals with solar panels could save 63 billion gallons of water and generate 13 gigawatts of power. This is equivalent to powering the entire city of Los Angeles from January through early October. The results of this study have caught the attention of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has expressed interest in seeing the project implemented.

The Turlock Irrigation District, which provides power, has also shown interest in building a solar project on its canals. The district believes that the shade from the panels could help reduce weed growth in the canals, which currently costs the utility $1 million annually. The state has committed $20 million in public funds to this pilot project, making it a collaboration between the private, public, and academic sectors.

The project will involve covering approximately 2.6 kilometers of canals with solar panels placed several feet off the ground. The UC Merced team will study the impacts of the project on evaporation and water quality. The success of this pilot project could pave the way for more solar-covered canals in California.

India has already pioneered this technology on its irrigation projects, but there have been challenges with high capital costs and maintenance issues. However, California has learned from India’s experience and plans to use better materials and design in its solar canal project.

Other entities, such as the Gila River Indian Tribe and the Salt River Project in Arizona, are also exploring the possibility of installing solar panels on their canals to conserve water and generate clean energy.

While resistance to change still exists in the water infrastructure sector, there is growing interest in utilizing solar panels on canals as a more sustainable and sensible solution. Representative Jared Huffman has been advocating for this technology for almost a decade and has secured funding for a pilot project through the Bureau of Reclamation.

Overall, the concept of solar-covered canals in California is gaining traction as a solution to water loss and climate pollution while promoting renewable energy generation.

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