California Building 'Solar Canals' To Produce Power, Save Water

Jul 31, 2023

The state of California is aiming for a solution to climate change and extreme drought. The plan is to install 8,500 feet of solar panels atop desert irrigation canals. This is to create electricity. But it’s also to slow the evaporation of water. It will be the first project of its kind in the US.

The pilot project is called Project Nexus. It is due to begin this fall. The project will be studied to find out if it can be used throughout the state’s water systems. A 2021 study suggests the answer may be yes. It was done by the University of California (UC), Merced.  

The study found that placing solar panel covers over the state’s 4,000-mile canal system could save 63 billion gallons of water a year. It also found that the solar panels might create enough renewable energy each year to equal one-sixth of California’s current entire electric output.  

“All of these coming together at this moment,” the CEO of Solar AquaGrid, told The Associated Press. “Is there a more pressing issue that we could apply our time to?” 

Solar AquaGrid plans to install solar panel covers with the help of the state government. The state government has given $20 million to the project. The solar panel covers would be on top of canals in northern California. Researchers will analyze the results.  

Whether the solar panels will end up costing too much money is unknown. India launched its own project in 2012. The goal was to build nearly 12,000 miles of these canopies. Only a few were built. The costs to install and care for them was very high.

Reflect: Why do you think it's important for us to find new ways to use energy and protect our natural resources?

The author uses a problem and solution text structure to support the reader’s understanding of _______. (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. the economic costs of solar canals in India
b. the future plans to expand Project Nexus in California
c. the comparison between California's Project Nexus and India's project
d. the use of solar panels on desert canals to fight climate change and drought
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