UC Merced study explores benefits of covering California's canals with solar panels

Researchers at UC Merced and Santa Cruz are digging into a new possibility - covering California's canals with solar panels.
MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Across the state of California lies thousands of miles of canals, but what if they could serve a dual purpose?

"Imagine driving down I-5 and seeing canals covered with solar panels and being able to charge your electric vehicle as you go from Fresno to Los Angeles," said UC Merced Professor of Engineering Roger Bales.

Researchers at UC Merced and Santa Cruz are digging into a new possibility - covering California's canals with solar panels.

"What we found were some pretty exciting findings," said post doctoral scholar at UC Santa Cruz Brandi McKuin. "We estimate solar canals could reduce evaporation and save upwards of 65 billion gallons of water."



Over the past 5 years, they've researched the benefits finding it can result in significant water, energy and cost savings.

"This would be enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farm land or meet the residential water needs of over 2 million people," added McKuin.

According to the study, covering canals with solar panels would also reduce evaporation, avoid destroying natural lands and provide renewable energy.

"We need to develop solar in ways that preserve the few remaining lands we have," added Bales.

Researchers say the next step is to build a prototype project, but when and where that will happen is still in the works.

"I think it's a good time to enter the debate about these multi benefit projects," added Bales. "We really need to think about how to achieve multiple benefits with an investment not just one benefit."
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