Green technology may provide more water farmers

TULARE COUNTY, Calif.

Crews have been working to construct the newest water recharge basin for the Tulare Irrigation District. The basin won't just provide much needed groundwater for 300 homeowners and farmers who live nearby, but electricity, as well.

The Tulare Irrigation District is in the final stages of negotiating a contract with solar company, "Solargen USA" to build a field of solar panels over this new recharge basin.

"The idea was, we put the solar panels on the basin," said Aaron Fukuda. "We can therefore provide benefit to the district monetarily and that benefits the farmers because it keeps the cost of their water down and other utilities.

District Engineer Aaron Fukuda says the win-win situation makes the project more efficient than say solar panels on top of a roof or other structure.

The project is what the Tulare Irrigation District calls a "turnkey" operation. Solargen USA pays for the entire installation and maintenance of the project and the district provides the land.

Since the solar panels would shade about one-quarter of the basin, the Tulare Irrigation District also expects to retain more water that would normally be lost to evaporation.

"A pond full like this one for a whole year we would lose five feet off the top in evaporation," said Paul Hendrix. "Some of that, because of the shading, we think we'll save and it should provide for a more efficient recharge operation."

The solar panels will be installed through concrete pillars and sit just a few feet above the surface of the water

The new Tulare recharge basin will be complete next year and hold about 50 million gallons of water. The solar panels are expected to be installed in 2013.

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