The solar arrays placed atop the canals in India have emerged as a huge inspiration for the researchers of California. The installation is known as a solar canal. Chandrasan is a small village situated in Gujarat in India that has installed a series of solar panels of 1 megawatt each.
These solar panels stretch across vast fields of crops like peanuts and cotton without encroaching the valuable farmland. Placing the panels over the constricted irrigation canals accomplishes this. Thus these solar canals replenish the adjacent fields as well as provide an important source of power.
This was the 1st solar canal in India installed in 2012. Since then it has stimulated an increasing global interest mainly owing to the unconventional design and its multiple benefits. This system shows overlapping utilities and functions apart from producing electricity. Firstly, it keeps the narrow strip of the canal cool while the water below cools the panels over it. More importantly, the panel creates shade that reduces evaporation and prevents the growth of harmful algae in the waterways.
Quite a number of large-scale solar canals provide a 1-2 hit of power production as well as water conservation across a few rural areas in India. The researchers of California have been recently studying this new and innovative network to examine the appropriateness of solar canals in California.
Solar Panels To Hover Over The Golden State?
The Golden State has an estimated 6,400km of crisscrossing public delivery water canals that can serve as aerial real estate to transform it into solar canals. Brandi McKuin is the lead author of the ongoing study and a postdoctoral scholar of California University, Santa Cruz. McKuin has asked an essential question regarding the cost behind this massive infrastructure.
Gujarat’s 1-megawatt installation has steel trusses for supporting the 750-meter long canal with blue rectangular solar panels. Whereas Punjab’s 2.5-MW installation employs tensioned cables. Consequently, both systems use technically complex and costlier designs than the conventional ground-mounted designs.
Moreover, technicians build ramps to clean the glimmering panels. Operating and maintaining the system require specialized machinery. Manik Jolly, the pilot of the Gujarat project, remarked on the growing-breaking engineering achievement represented by canal-top projects. Such a feat is missing in the simple traditional ground-mounted projects.
Balancing Economic Feasibility With Additional Benefits
Californian researchers discovered that advanced electricity production, water conservation savings, and dodged land fees can effectively neutralize economic feasibility. McKuin has informed that these unofficial financial benefits will eventually compensate for the high expenses associated with the solar canal infrastructure.
Additionally, Indian projects have revealed a 2.5% to 5% extra, improved output, and efficacy of solar canals. The cooling effects from the water beneath make it successfully attainable. Furthermore, canal-top panels show fewer signs of degradation and stable power output. These added benefits have been reported by the 3-year study in Energy Research & Management in Gujarat.
The solar canals are a crucial source of electricity in rural India that significantly cuts transmission costs. India has 120 major solar canal systems that provide an enormous 10,000-MW solar energy to agricultural regions and beyond. A 10-MW solar canal is likely to prevent the evaporation of ninety million liters of water in Gujarat annually.
Indian Solar Canal Drive Inspires California
California University researchers suggested solar canal installation to combat climate change. Numerous irrigation canals in California are located in drought-prone agricultural centers that produce over 50% of the nuts, vegetables, and fruits in the US. As a result, solar canal projects reduce drought risks.
Elliot Campbell, UC professor, emphasized the surprising benefits of bringing together energy and water. Solar canals might prove to be acutely effective in reducing the enduring droughts and the adverse impacts of climate change.