“Covering the 4,000 miles of California’s water canals could save billions of gallons of water and generate renewable power for the state every year,” says a study from the University of California/Merced.

The study covers a lot of ground, or really, water. For instance, the researchers looked at how much energy could be generated, water evaporation eliminated (as much as 82%), land that could be irrigated, and reduced maintenance costs on the canals.

The idea is to put solar panels over the canals, installed on ground mounts. “Because the solar panels shade the canals from direct sunlight … they would not only mitigate evaporation but also curtail the growth of aquatic weeds and reduce maintenance costs, while the evaporation that does occur actually cools the panels, increasing their efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity.” (Source)

WIRED magazine notes that, “California’s water conveyance system is the world’s largest, serving 35 million people and 5.7 million acres of farmland.” Some 63 billion gallons of water would be saved, which could irrigate 50,000 acres of land. For a state with energy and water problems, this is big.

Just as important, the real energy these researchers show is brainpower and teamwork. Putting the natural resource puzzle together in new ways is the only way we can advance our energy and environmental future in a positive way.

Check the article on the University of California website.

The article also appeared in Nature Sustainability, which has terrific material.

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Feature image is on the University of California article.