Turlock Irrigation District to cover canals with solar panels

Bravo Turlock, a positive attempt to cope with global warming. Curiously missing from the story is any mention of University of California, Merced. But, speak Memory: the first chancellor of that institution, known locally as the Cowgirl Chancellor for her blue-and-gold cowgirl boots, never failed to correct herself and others 20 years ago, imperially insisting that global warming was to be called "climate change" and "climate change" only. UC Merced probably doesn't want to be associated with any project that admits global warming exists. Fortunately, UC HIppie on the Coast has more guts. -- blj


California to test solar Panels over irrigation Canals to save Water, boost Electricity Output
By Anna Campbell and Karen Marroquin |

( Cronkite News ) – TURLOCK, Calif. – As the most persistent drought conditions on record continue to grip the Southwest, a pilot project in California’s lush Central Valley looks to save water and increase energy efficiency.
The Turlock Irrigation District, the California Department of Water Resources and university researchers are working together to build solar-panel canopies over existing canals to test and study the benefits for saving energy and water. They’ll break ground this fall on Project Nexus, which focuses on three sections of the district’s 250 miles of canals.
The district says canal water should cool the solar panels, increasing their efficiency, while the canopies will shade the water and protect it from wind, lowering evaporation while reducing aquatic growth that harms water quality.
“Project Nexus, which will break ground this fall, aims to test and study water and energy conservation using solar-panel canopies. (Photo courtesy of Solar AquaGrid, LLC.
But what works in the Central Valley is impractical in Arizona, according to water experts in that desert state, who say the costs would be too high and the savings too low.
The Turlock pilot program is expected to be completed in 2024. But a 2021 study by researchers in the University of California system concluded that if all 4,000 miles of California’s irrigation canals had solar canopies, 63 billion gallons of water could be saved from evaporation each year.
In addition to water savings, said Brandi McKuin, a postdoctoral scholar with the University of California, Santa Cruz and one of the study authors, the panels also should enhance electricity production, possibly increasing it by 3%.
“There’s a thermal threshold on solar panels – if they become too hot, they have a decline in performance,” she said. “Because water heats up more slowly than land, we estimate there could be an increase in efficiency in solar panel electricity.”
Using the Turlock Irrigation District’s existing canals rather than purchasing land and digging new canals has both financial and ecological benefits.
“By using already disturbed land,” McKuin said, “we can avoid habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. So there’s tremendous benefits for biodiversity using this approach, as opposed to taking up large tracts of desert.”
Josh Weimer, the external affairs manager at the irrigation district, said that because land value in California is high, purchasing new land would have driven up the project’s cost.
Project Nexus is the first solar canal project in the U.S., but India was the first to experiment with such panels. Since 2015, when panels were first used on a large scale in the Vadodara district of Gujarat, India, has expanded its solar canals to include a 100-megawatt project in the Narmada River Basin, which empties into the Arabian Sea on the country’s western coast.
McKuin said the California project has similar ambitions, however, the University of California research team will use a slightly different design.
“We’re thinking about really optimizing that solar canopy design so that it’s lighter weight and more efficient,” she said.