News & Media

What are some benefits of solar panels over canals?

December 1, 2023

It is expected that the solar shading over canals will provide various co-benefits, including reduced water evaporation resulting from mid-day shade and wind, water quality improvements through reduced vegetative growth, reduced canal maintenance through reduced vegetative growth, renewable electricity generation, and air quality improvements, among others. Working with the research team at UC Merced, Project partners anticipate adding energy storage capabilities that can support the local electric grid when solar generation is suboptimal.

In addition to advancing both renewable energy and water conservation locally with the Project, solar panels over canals offer much promise statewide; covering all of the approximately 4,000 miles of public water delivery canals has benefits related to efficiency, cost, air-quality, and ecology. Putting solar panels over water rather than land can help cool solar panels, making them more efficient.  Solar cells become less efficient as they heat up, the water’s cooling effect can increase their conversion ability. Shading exposed waterways can not only reduce evaporation, it can curtail the growth of aquatic weeds, reducing canal maintenance costs.

Putting solar panels over canals rather than on land elsewhere can save money, save permitting time, and gives already disturbed land a double use rather than building on undisturbed land.