In A First For The U.S, California Is Putting Solar Panels On Canals


It goes without saying that solar panels hold the future in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions and are one of the prime sources of generating renewable energy reserves. It turned out that a feasibility study had been published in 2021 in which scientists researched the impacts of “erecting solar panels over canals” and you would be amazed to know that the benefits of this project are enormous. Recently, it has been reported that a pilot project of the research study has set grounds in California, and guess what? The results are promising.

Coupled with this, this $20 million worth of project that has been funded by the State of California, known as “Project Nexus”, is about to roll out in the Turlock Irrigation District. The project will commence in mid-October and will cover a 500-foot span of the canal in Hickman, which is located to the east of Modesto. Not only this, the project will also elongate a mile-long canal in the suburbs of Ceres. Josh Weimer, who is the external affairs manager of Turlock Water & Power, stated, “If this is something that works on these first two miles of Project Nexus that we’re doing, there’s the potential that this could scale to multiple locations.”

As per July 2021 statistics, California comprises a total of 13.1 million households. Now, if solar panels enfolds all 4000 miles of California, then it would be sufficient to produce 13 gigawatts of renewable power. It has to be noted that around 750,000 households can be powered with a gigawatt of energy, and if we estimate 13 gigawatts to the number of households present in California, you would be amazed to know that the energy produced will generate power for 9.75 households. This is amazing if the project becomes successful.

Seeing the significance of Project Nexus, the California Department of Water Resources, utility company Turlock Irrigation District (TID), Marin County, California-based water and energy project developer Solar AquaGrid, and the University of California are collaborating in the completion of this project. The tagline of Project Nexus is, “a nod to the water-energy nexus paradigm gaining attention among public utilities.” However, the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

TID digs deeper and defines the project as, “Project Nexus includes the installation of solar panel canopies over various sections of Turlock Irrigation District’s (TID) irrigation canals. Project Nexus will serve as a Proof of Concept to pilot and further study solar over canal design, deployment, and co-benefits on behalf of the State of California using TID infrastructure and electrical grid access. ” It has to be noted that India is already deploying solar panels over its canals to generate electricity, but this one project that is going to break ground in California would be the first of its kind in the US.

Roger Bales, who is a part of this project and is also a renowned professor of engineering at the University of California, wrote, “In a 2021 study, we showed that covering all 4,000 miles of California’s canals with solar panels would save more than 65 billion gallons of water annually by reducing evaporation. That’s enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of more than 2 million people. By concentrating solar installations on land that is already being used, instead of building them on undeveloped land, this approach would help California meet its sustainable management goals for both water and land resources. “


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