Solar AquaGrid, in collaboration with the University of California Merced, Turlock Irrigation District, and the California Department of Water Resources, has been awarded the prestigious 2023 Gizmodo Science Fair award for their innovative solution to combining clean energy with water conservation. Their idea? To cover California’s 4,000 miles of irrigation canals with solar panels, which could potentially save up to 63 billion gallons of water every year, enough to fulfill the needs of 2 million people.
Researchers at the University of California Merced and Santa Cruz released a study in 2021 that commissioned Solar AquaGrid, revealing that solar panels over water are more productive than those over land, making them more effective. This groundbreaking idea will not only help conserve water but also generate an enormous amount of renewable energy. Turlock Irrigation District is currently working with the team to build two pilot sites, set to launch next year, which will serve as a proof-of-concept.
As California works towards its climate goals, reimagining existing infrastructure, and land use policies, this new approach is an important part of an “all-of-the-above” approach. Turlock Irrigation District is excited about the potential benefits of reduced aquatic growth in the canals, added renewable energy without taking up excess land, and more. The pilot project is sure to be watched eagerly by other water and electric utilities across California.