Today’s Solutions: March 03, 2024

Solar energy is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy industries in the world, however, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t faced with challenges in the widespread implementation and harvesting of solar power. One of the biggest issues with solar energy is that the land that is usually ideal for hosting solar panels is also perfect for crops—flat, large, and with a lot of access to the sun. 

We’ve shared stories about how agriculture and solar could work together and even be mutually beneficial, however, this isn’t always true in all circumstances. Looking for alternative installation sites, researchers from the University of California Merced have published a study that proposes covering all of California’s irrigation canals with solar panels.

According to the study, doing so would lead to approximately 4,000 miles of solar coverage, which would also result in 63 billion gallons per year of water saved from evaporation, and generate 13 GW of solar all at once. 

Now, to put these numbers to the test, water and electricity utility Turlock Irrigation District (TID) accepted $20 million in state funds for a pilot project that started on February 9th. The utility company, in collaboration with the Department of Water Resources, UC Merced, and Solar AquaGrid will conduct the project all while ensuring that its operations remain sustainable.

“The Solar AquaGrid model provides a combined, integrated response to addressing our water-energy nexus,” said Professor at UC Merced, Roger Bales. “[The project] helps address California’s underlying vulnerabilities. 

The hope is that this project can be used to meet federal government commitments such as the generation of renewable energy, preservation of natural habitats, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and more in order to meet the challenges presented to us by climate change.

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