A new pilot program could solve two climate-related issues in the Golden State.
The California Department of Water Resources is funding a $20 million pilot program to install solar panels over water supply canals in the state. The project aims to decrease the amount of water evaporated, worsening the state’s historic drought, while the solar panels generate renewable energy, a news release said.
“This is a really exciting project,” Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary, said in a statement. “It connects our efforts in California to improve water conservation and build drought resilience with the clean energy transition we’re driving across California.”
The pilot program will cover water canals in Central California. Recently, the Los Angeles City Council voted to consider funding a similar project over the L.A. Aqueduct, KCRW reported.
The program’s concept resulted from research done by Solar AquaGrid, a project development company based in the Bay Area. A UC Merced environmental engineering alumna, Brandi McKuin, was one of the researchers on the initial project.
The research team found that “covering the 4,000 miles of California’s water canals could reduce evaporation by as much as 82%, saving about 63 billion gallons of water a year,” according to a news release from UC Merced.
That amount of water is about the same amount needed to “irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people.”
Researchers propose that if all of the state’s water canals were covered with solar panels, about 13 gigawatts of renewable power could be generated, the news release said.
This significant step will also help the state reach its 2030 climate goals.
The Turlock Irrigation District in Northern California will break ground on the project early next year, a news release from the California Department of Water Resources said.