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California has major problems with droughts. The state has been hit by a dry spell that has lasted for two years and the last two months have been the driest since the measurements began.
Saving water in every possible way is therefore very important. Project Nexus is a step towards protecting water reserves and at the same time generating electricity. The idea is to cover irrigation canals with solar panels.
Tests show that if all of the state's 4'000 miles of canals were covered with solar panels, they'd cast enough shadows to reduce evaporation to an extent where it would be enough to irrigate another 80 square miles of crops or provide two million people with drinking water. At the same time, the solar panels would produce 13 GWh.
The method is not new and has already been tested in India as the Good News Network reported. In that case, it turned out that the solar panels not only shaded the water in the canals but the water, in turn, cooled the solar panels. This meant that the panels generated 2-5 percent more electricity than land-based panels.
Project Nexus is run by Turlock Irrigation District, a local electricity and water company. The plan is now to test the technology on a smaller scale first. In 2024, the first section of canals will be covered with solar panels intended to generate 5 MW.