Innovation will be key to accelerating the clean energy transition and reaching a net zero economy. Edison Energy is following the latest innovations in decarbonization across technologies, projects, and programs, from conception through completion.
Project Nexus, a pilot project to build solar panel canopies over a portion of existing irrigation canals in California’s Central Valley.
Conceptual rendering of Project Nexus. Photo Credit: TID Water & Power
The big picture
Existing water conveyance infrastructure will serve as the foundation for solar canopies to produce renewable energy. The project will serve as a Proof of Concept to pilot and further study solar-over-canal design, deployment, and co-benefits.
California-based TID (Turlock Irrigation District) Water & Power, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), Solar AquaGrid, and the University of California, Merced.
How it works
An estimated 8,500 feet of solar panels generating 5 MW of renewable energy will be built over three sections of canals within TID’s service territory. These sections range between 20 and 100 feet wide.
The project will use existing TID infrastructure on already-disturbed land while supporting the region’s sustainable farming tradition. Additionally, energy storage will be installed to study how storage facilities can support the local electric grid when solar generation is reduced due to cloud cover.
As the first ever solar-over-canal development in the U.S., the project will assess generation of renewable electricity; reduction of water evaporation resulting from mid-day shade and wind mitigation; improvements to water quality through reduced vegetative growth; and reduction in canal maintenance through reduced vegetative growth.
The $20 million project is funded by the state of California.
Why it matters
The project has the potential to demonstrate a new, innovative water-energy nexus that can be replicated elsewhere in the state and nation to increase efficiencies in managing limited natural resources.
The water has the potential to cool the solar panels and increase their efficiency, while the solar panels provide shade and wind protection over the water, reducing evaporation. This will also lead to a reduction in aquatic growth, improving water quality.
Putting solar panels over canals rather than on land can also save money, reduce permitting time, and gives already-disturbed land a double use rather than building on undisturbed land.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for this fall, with project completion expected in 2024.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Energy Edge Innovation Series!
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