WATCH: California’s plan to install solar panels over canals

The State is investigating the potential benefits of turning its beleaguered water network into a renewable energy source. 

Originally proposed by researchers at the University of California, the idea has been slow to gain traction but now looks like it could become a reality in the near future. 

According to the team’s initial study, the potential gains from this project could be significant, with around 63billion gallons of water saved by covering the State’s almost 6,500km of water canals. In doing so, it could also generate 13gigawatts of electricity, which is enough to power the entire City of Los Angeles from January to early October, based on annual average power demand. 

However, this is only now set to be tested in practice with Project Nexus, in California’s Central Valley. The first undertaking of its kind in the US, it will see sections of the Turlock Irrigation District’s (TID) canals covered with sola arrays, with the California Department of Water Resources, Solar AquaGrid, and UC Merced partnering on the trial. If successful, it could provide proof of concept for similar systems to be implemented in other parts of the country. 

While California’s drought problem is notorious, with the State introducing water use restrictions almost a decade ago, this is far from the only American region where fresh water supplies are a cause for real concern. States such as Oklahoma, for example, score particularly badly on the drought vulnerability index because they have failed to update plans to deal with such events, while New Jersey, located on an East Coast that sees significantly higher rainfall than the central and western areas, is also considered extremely vulnerable because of its population – the densest in the United States. 

Take a look at the video below which explains more about Project Nexus, and what the teams involved hope to achieve from this experiment with infrastructure 

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Image: Project Nexus (C) TID


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