Water loss due to evaporation in water canals can be up to 7% of the total quantity of water flowing in a canal. What if, instead of letting the sun dry up canals, these canals are covered with solar panels?
Researchers from the University of California Merced and University of California Santa Cruz just completed a feasibility study on what would happen if California’s waterways are covered with solar panels.
California’s water conveyance system is the largest in the world. It has approximately 4,000 miles of canals supplying water to over 35 million people and 5.7 million acres of farmland.
It can make a significant difference in the water-short region often stuck by drought
As per the calculations, covering California’s water canals could save 63 billion gallons of water. The water saved would be enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people.
At the same time, these panels would also generate 13 gigawatts of renewable power for the state each year. This will be enough to meet the state’s decarbonization goals by the year 2030.
The closest equivalent project in the world
India has already experimented with the idea in 2015, although at a small scale. A stretch of 750m of the canal was covered with solar panels. Since the first solar canal project, several other projects have been successfully commissioned in India.