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Why is it that covering the channels with solar panels is a powerful move

Why is it that covering the channels with solar panels is a powerful move


Peanut butter and gelatin. Hall & Oates. Now there is a pair that can be literally and figuratively even stronger: solar panels and canals. Instead of leaving the canals open, instead of letting the sun evaporate water, would we cover them with panels that would turn off the precious liquid and emit solar energy? Maybe humanity can go for it.

California scientists have reported the numbers that would happen if solar panels were trampled on solar panels on 4,000-mile canals, including the large California aqueduct, and the results could have a beautiful collaboration. Their viability examination, published in the journal Sustainability of nature, found that if applied across the state, the panels would save 63 billion gallons of water per year from evaporation. At the same time, solar panels in California’s exposed canals would provide 13 gigawatts of renewable energy each year, about 20 percent of the new capacity the state needs to meet its decarbonization goals by 2030.

The California water transportation system is the largest service in the world 35 million people and 5.7 million acres of agricultural land. 75% of the available water is in the northern third of the state, while the lower two-thirds of the state account for 80% of urban and agricultural demand. Moving all the water around it requires pumps to flow uphill; according to which the water system is the only consumer of electricity in the state.

In addition to producing renewable energy for use by solar canals across the state, they would run the same water system. “By covering the canals with solar panels, we can reduce evaporation and prevent disturbance to natural and working land by providing renewable energy and other compatible benefits,” says environmental engineer Brandi McKuin, lead author of the paper, Santa Cruz and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Ironically enough, the performance of solar panels decreases as temperatures rise. In a solar cell, photons of the sun extract electrons from atoms, generating an electric current. When a panel becomes too hot, the electrons are placed in a state where they are already excited and therefore do not generate as much energy when the photons are discharged. Spreading the panels over the canals would somehow cool the water, improving efficiency. “And besides,” McKuin added, “the shade of the panels eases the growth of water in the grass, which is the main maintenance of the canals.”

Engineering would also not be that complicated. You can throw a steel truss over a channel and cover it with panels. In India, he has actually experimented with such solar canals and commissioned a 25-kilometer stretch At a cost of $ 14 million.

Clearly, this new paper is not intended to immediately cover all canals with solar panels that make state officials explode. “Our article is not a detailed engineering design or a conceptual design; it is a feasibility study, proof of the concept of taking it to the next phase of investing in a demonstration project,” says engineer Roger Bales of Merced University in California. “But I think the amount of electricity can be significant, both at the state level and at the local level.”

Bales and McKuin calculated all of this by incorporating several models. Evaporation rates, for example, come from hydrological models. They folded into climate models to predict how the state would warm up in the coming years. They are so granular that they also calculated how the cooling effect of the canal water would improve the generation efficiency of the panels.

In the end, they got a potential budget to save 63 billion gallons of water a year across California. But they also took into account the human benefits of such a project, which are more vague. For example, many farmers pump water with diesel generators. If solar panels provided this energy, local emissions could be reduced, thus improving air quality. “You can look at the economic costs, but you can also look at the social benefits,” Bales says.



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