Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning, I came across an encouraging article at Canary Media about the potential of solar farms built on top of canals. Although such projects are still few and far between, they boast a number of efficiency advantages over conventional solar farms:
“Putting solar panels above the water helped keep the equipment cool, which in turn improved their efficiency and electricity output. Shade from the panels helped prevent water loss through evaporation and controlled the growth of aquatic weeds, reducing pesticide use and the need for water treatment.”
Just as important a benefit, at least in my opinion, is the land efficiency: “Sprawling utility-scale solar systems are facing pushback in rural Midwestern communities and in Maine, Texas, Virginia and elsewhere. Local opponents have argued that big solar projects would take farmland out of production, reduce property values and possibly harm wildlife.”
I’ve warned a number of times in the Transmission Professionals community that the proliferation of renewables projects would exhaust already limited public bandwidth for big energy infrastructure projects. This canal idea has potential to mitigate NIMBY backlash.
Canal solar farms are still in their infancy, though. India boasts the most mature network, including a 1-megawatt array that was built in 2012. In the American context, California looks like it will be the test ground for solar on canals. Solar AquaGrid is currently planning a prototype that will cover close to 2 miles of irrigation canals in the Central Valley.