Covering canals with solar panels is why an energy move

Peanut butter and Jelly Hall and Oats now have a pair that can be literally and figuratively more powerful: solar panels and canals. What if instead of keeping the canals open, not allowing the sun’s water to evaporate, we keep them covered with panels that both shade the precious liquid and increase solar energy? Maybe humanity To be able to Go for that.

Scientists in California have spread the word about what would happen if solar panels were tapped in 4,000-mile canals, including California’s Aqueduct, and the results point to a potentially beautiful partnership. Their potential Study, Published in the journal Nature sustainability, It has been found that if applied statewide, the panels could save 63 billion gallons of water per year from evaporation. At the same time, solar panels across California’s open canals will provide 13 gigawatts of renewable electricity a year, and by 2030 the state will need about half of the new half-capacity to meet its carbonization targets.

California’s water transportation system is the largest in the world, serving 35 million people And 5.7 million acres of land. Seventy-five percent of the available water is in the northern third of the state, and the lower two-thirds of the state claims 60 percent of urban and agricultural areas. For all the water circulation around it requires pumps to go up and down; Accordingly, the water system is the largest single consumer of electricity in the state.

Solar paneling canals will not only generate renewable energy for use across the state, it will drive the water system itself. “By covering canals with solar panels, we can reduce evaporation and avoid disturbing natural and functional lands, providing renewable energy and other co-facilities,” said Brandi McQueen, an environmental engineer at the University of California, Mercedes, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lead author on paper.

Ironically enough, the efficiency of solar panels decreases with increasing temperature. In a solar cell, photons from the sun knock out electrons outside the atom, Generating electric current. When a panel gets too hot, it throws the electrons into an already excited state, so they don’t generate as much energy when the photons are separated. Expanding the panels over the canal will, in a sense, increase their efficiency, making them water-cooled. McQueen added, “The shaded aquifers of the panels mitigate weed growth, which is a major problem in canal maintenance.”

Engineering is not, would not be so complicated. You can throw a steel truss over a canal and cover it with panels. India has actually been experimenting with solar canals, and has extended them by 25 miles Estimated cost 14 million.

Clearly, this new paper is not a full-fledged pitch to state officials to cover all the canals with the help of instant solar panels. “Our paper is not an engineering design or conceptual design – it’s a feasibility study, it’s a demonstration of the idea of ​​investing in a demonstration project to the next level,” said Roger Bells, a Mercedes engineer at the University of California. “But I think the amount of electricity can be significant both nationally and locally.”

Bells and McQueen combined different models and calculated them all. Evaporation rates come from hydroelectric models, for example. They also folded into climate models, to predict how warm the state would be in the coming years. They became so granular that they even calculated how the cooling effect of the canal water would improve the production efficiency of the panels.

Eventually they landed a potential annual saving of 633 billion gallons of water across California. However, they also took into account the humanitarian benefits of such projects, which are even worse. For example, many farmers pump their water with diesel generators. If solar panels provide that energy instead, it can reduce local emissions, resulting in improved air quality. “You can look at economic costs, but you can also look at social benefits,” Bells says.

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