Installing solar panels on California canals can provide water, land, air, and climate rewards
The California Aqueduct, which carries more than 400 miles south of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, splits as it enters Southern California at the border between Kern and Los Angeles counties. California DWR Climate change and water scarcity are at the forefront and center of the western United States. The climate in the region is warming, with severe years of drought underway and many places oversupplied groundwater. Western states are pursuing many strategies to adapt to these stresses and prepare for the future. This includes measures to promote the development of renewable energy, conserve water and manage nature and working land in a more sustainable way. As engineers working on climate-friendly solutions, we have found that there are easy benefits to both water and climate in California using what is called a “solar canal solution.” Approximately 4,000 miles of canals transport water to approximately 35 million Californians and 5.7 million acres of farmland throughout the state. Covering these canals with solar panels can reduce the evaporation of precious water, one of California’s most important resources, to reach the state’s renewable energy goals while saving costs. Water and Land Conservation California is prone to drought and water is always a concern. Today, climate change is leading to hotter and drier weather. Severe droughts over the last 10 to 30 years have depleted wells, authorities have enforced water restrictions and ignited large wildfires. As of mid-April 2021, the entire state was officially experiencing a drought. At the same time, California has ambitious protection goals. The state has a duty to reduce groundwater pumping while maintaining a reliable supply of farms, cities, wildlife and ecosystems. As part of a broader climate change initiative, in October 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom instructed the California Natural Resources Agency to lead efforts to protect 30% of land and coastal water by 2030. Most of California’s rain and snow fall north of Sacramento during the winter months. , 80% of its water use occurs in Southern California, mainly in the summer. That’s why the canal meanders throughout the state. This is the largest such system in the world. It is estimated that about 1% -2% of the water they carry is lost by evaporation in the hot California sun. A recent study showed that covering all 4,000 miles of California’s canals with solar panels could save more than 65 billion gallons of water annually by reducing evaporation. This is enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland and meet the demand for residential water for more than 2 million people. This approach allows California to sustainably manage both water and land resources by concentrating solar PV on already-used land rather than building solar on undeveloped land. Helps you reach your goals. Climate-friendly electricity Shading California canals with solar panels produces a significant amount of electricity. Our estimates show that it can provide about 13 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity. This is about half of the new energy sources that the state needs to add to reach its clean electricity goals. 60% from carbon-free energy sources by 2030 and 100% renewable energy by 2045. .. Installing solar panels on the canal will make both systems more efficient. Solar panels reduce evaporation from the canal, especially during the hot summers of California. Also, because the water heats up more slowly than on land, the canal water flowing under the panel can cool the panel by 10 F and increase power generation by up to 3%. These panels can also generate electricity locally in many parts of California, reducing both transmission losses and consumer costs. The combination of photovoltaics and batteries can build microgrids in rural areas and poorly serviced communities, increasing the efficiency and resiliency of power systems. This reduces the risk of power loss due to extreme weather, human error and wildfires. We estimate that the cost of installing solar panels on a canal is higher than building a ground-based system. However, with some additional benefits such as avoiding land costs, saving water, reducing aquatic weeds, and improving PV efficiency, solar canals are a better investment and provide lower cost electricity throughout the life of the solar. I found out that Installation. Solar panels installed on top of the canal increase the efficiency of both systems. Brandi McKuin, CC BY-ND Land Benefits Solar canals do more than just generate renewable energy and save water. Building these long, thin solar arrays can prevent over 80,000 acres of farmland and natural habitat from being converted to solar farms. California grows food for the ever-growing world population and produces more than 50% of the fruits, nuts and vegetables eaten by US consumers. However, up to 50% of the new renewable energy capacity to reach the decarbonization goal can be installed in agricultural areas, including vast prime farmlands. The installation of solar canals also protects wildlife, ecosystems and culturally important lands. The development of large-scale solar power generation can cause habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, and can harm endangered species such as turtles in the Mojave Desert. It can also harm desert shrub plant communities, including plants that are culturally important to indigenous peoples. As an example, the construction of the Genesis Solar Energy Centers in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts between 2012 and 2014 destroyed trails and burial grounds, damaged important cultural relics and caused protracted legal disputes. [Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.] Photovoltaics that clean the air can improve the quality of the air by producing clean electricity. This is a serious problem in central California, which has some of the dirtiest air in the United States. It can also help charge more and more small and large electric vehicles that move people and things around the state. Yet another advantage is the control of aquatic weeds that clog the canal. In India, where developers have been building solar canals since 2014, the shade from the panels blocks drainage and limits the growth of weeds that limit water flow. Fighting these weeds with herbicides and machinery is costly and herbicides threaten human health and the environment. For a large 100-foot-wide canal in California, the shading canal is estimated to save about $ 40,000 per mile. Savings can reach $ 69 million annually across the state. Rendered by an artist on the California Solar Canal System. Solar Aquagrid LLC, CC BY-ND Bringing Solar Canals to California India is building a solar array on top of the canal, the United States is developing a floating solar project, but California has a prototype for on-site research There is none. Discussions are underway in Central Valley and Southern California on both large and small demonstration projects. Prototyping allows operators, developers, and regulators to improve their designs, assess their environmental impact, measure project costs and benefits, and assess how these systems work. Useful. With more data, planners can plan strategies for expanding the solar canal throughout the state and potentially across the west. You need more than 12 partners to plan, fund, and execute a solar canal project in California. Public-private partnerships may include federal, state, and local government agencies, project developers, and university researchers. California’s dilapidated power infrastructure contributes to catastrophic wildfires and several days of outages. Building smart solar developments on canals and other devastated lands can make electricity and water infrastructure more resilient, while conserving water, reducing costs and combating climate change. I can do it. We believe this is a model that should be considered nationwide and globally. This article has been republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by Roger Bales, Merced, and Brandy McInn of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Read more: Young California ranchers are looking for new ways to raise livestock and improve their land The US electricity sector is in the middle of zero carbon emissions Nothing to disclose. It is an organization that benefits from this article and does not disclose any relevant affiliations other than academic appointments.