Project Nexus Aims To Cover California Canals With Solar Panels

A new project is exploring an alternative to rooftop solar, by placing solar panels over canals that will benefit from the shade.

Known as Project Nexus, the US effort is a collaboration between the University of California-Merced, California’s Turlock Irrigation District, the California Department of Water Resources, and Solar Aquagrid – the latter San Francisco Bay-area company commissioned the research, and is overseeing the project.

The basic idea is that instead of placing arrays of photovoltaic panels on land that could be used for other purposes, those panels will instead be installed over lengths of existing irrigation canals.

Plans call for a total of 8,500 feet of solar panels to be built over three sections of the Turlock Irrigation District’s canals in California’s Central Vally, starting this Fall and ending in late 2024.

Based on research that was conducted last year at UC Merced, the project partners estimate that if 4,000 miles of California’s canals were covered with photovoltaic panels, evaporation could be reduced by up to 82 percent.

“Using water canals for solar infrastructure conserves water while producing renewable electricity, and avoids converting large tracts of land to solar development.”

For one thing, the presence of the panels could make it difficult to access the canals for maintenance purposes.