With approximately 4,000 miles (6,437 km) of canals carrying water throughout California, the state has plenty of real estate on which to build solar panel infrastructure, a report by Popular science Explain.
It turns out that installing panels above waterways using suspension cables also provides a surprisingly powerful benefit for the canals themselves.
Researchers at the University of California Merced and the University of California at Santa Cruz used simulations to assess the economic viability of building a network of “solar channels” in the state using one of the largest water supply systems in the world, supplying more than 27 million citizens with vital water. Resources.
Their new study, Posted in Nature, could pave the way for Californian canals equipped with solar panels, doubling them in drinking water courses and renewable energy farms. In addition, research shows that this development would help canals save a lot of water.
Researchers found that in addition to providing solar power, the shade from solar panels would prevent evaporation, saving up to 63 billion gallons of water per year in the state.
“We were surprised by the significant savings in evaporation, which we expect to reach up to 82%,” said Dr. Brandi McKuin, lead author of the study. in a press release. “This amount of water can make a significant difference in areas where water is scarce.”
McKuin also said that the shade from solar panels can reduce the growth of aquatic weeds, leading to lower maintenance costs for operators.
Water saving and solar panel cooling
Of course, solar panels would not prevent all evaporation. The evaporation that does occur, however, has the added benefit of cooling solar panels above the waterway, making them more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.
While such circular benefits may make the proposal for a large-scale solar panel canal project in the state of California – which is often hit by drought – obvious, several questions remain.
The researchers’ study, for example, does not calculate how much energy such a network would generate, nor the cost of building such a large infrastructure.
The closest equivalent today is in Gujarat, India, where solar panels cover a 750m stretch of a canal cost over $ 18 million to be built in 2015.
In Singapore, an island state with little room for expansion, the government has started installing floating solar panels at sea and in lakes in an attempt to save valuable space on land for other purposes – another benefit. also featured by the California Solar Panel Channel. proposal.