Today’s Solutions: January 17, 2022

About 4,000 miles of canals transport water to some 35 million people and 5.7 million acres of farmland across California. As the state enters another year of severe drought, researchers from the University of California have come up with a proposition to cover these canals with solar panels to prevent evaporation and generate clean energy. 

Most of California’s precipitation falls in the northern end of the state while 80 percent of water use occurs in Southern California. This demand discrepancy is the reason for so many canals, yet experts estimate that one to two percent of all water transported through these canals is lost to evaporation. Researchers have calculated that covering these canals with solar panels would save more than 65 billion gallons of water annually. That’s enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland or meet the residential water needs of over two million people.

These water-saving panels would also generate 13 gigawatts of renewable energy. Plus, the cool water flowing beneath the panels would cool the technology during hot weather, boosting electricity production during the summer by up to three percent. The ubiquity of these canals throughout the state would essentially create solar microgrids to serve surrounding communities, offering energy resilience during wildfires and heatwaves. 

Lastly, using existing infrastructure to build solar arrays prevents farmable land from being used for energy generation. Turning canals into hosts for panels would save 80,000 acres of farmland and natural habitat from being converted for solar farms. This protects not only the future of food but also the delicate ecosystems that makeup California’s remaining undeveloped land. 

This solution is the best of many worlds in terms of energy generation, water conservation, and intelligent land use. We will continue to follow this research and hopefully see California begin to implement this solar strategy in the near future.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Science Moms are on a mission to spread science-based climate optimism

When we feel overwhelmed and hopeless, many of us turn to our mothers or the mother figures we have in our lives for comfort and encouragement. As adults the challenges we face are much bigger ... Read More

Study: laughter is common among more than 65 species of animals

While laughter may seem like a trait exclusive to human behavior, nothing could be further from the truth. That’s at least according to a recent study which has found that the phenomenon of laughter is ... Read More

An EMADE autonomous drone helps save the life of cardiac arrest patient

Last month in Sweden, an elderly man experienced a cardiac arrest while shoveling snow. Today, this man is still alive thanks in large part to Everdrone’s Emergency Medical Aerial Delivery  (EMADE) service, a dispatch service ... Read More

Maya Angelou becomes first Black woman featured on a US coin

Earlier last week, US quarters with the image of poet and writer Maya Angelou went into circulation, making her the first Black woman in the nation’s history to be featured on a coin. Angelou’s quarter ... Read More

‘Strange metal’ may be the future for a more energy efficient world

Strange metal behavior was first noticed around 30 years ago. These materials are composed of copper-oxides and carry the properties of being high-temperature superconductors. This means they can transfer electricity very efficiently, withstanding much higher ... Read More

Key ingredient in cat litter could help reduce methane emissions

In recent years, carbon capture technologies have started playing an increasingly important role in our global quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. Now, researchers at MIT have started working on solving another ... Read More