Feds funding ‘solar-over-canal’ projects in California


California Construction News staff writer

California is teaming up with the federal government to construct another pilot project that could deliver a new source of clean power and transform the state’s water system.

Along with a $20 million state commitment for a solar over canals pilot project in Turlock, new federal funding as announced last week for another solar over canals pilot project outside of Los Banos. Solar over canals projects involve installing solar panels over water canals to help reduce evaporation and generate clean electricity.

“California is pioneering innovations to tackle our biggest challenges, and here in the Central Valley we’re addressing two big challenges at the same time – generating clean electricity and conserving water,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “Companies are coming to California because we’re embracing innovation and we have the talent and infrastructure to foster new technologies that will solve not only California’s, but the world’s, biggest challenges.”

Pilot projects will:

  • demonstrate the feasibility of installing solar panels over canals
  • reduce water evaporation
  • improve water quality
  • provide renewable power generation
  • demonstrate scalability

UC Merced will study the Turlock project to show how much clean energy could be generated, how much water could be conserved, and analyze how this could be scaled statewide. Initial findings show that if these projects are scaled statewide they would save over 60 billion gallons of water every year – enough for two million people and generate 13 gigawatts of clean power – more than half the projected new solar capacity needed by 2030 to meet the state’s decarbonization goals.


  1. 1) decades ago on a random flight to or from LA i was sitting next to the recent head of water resources, William Giannini back in early ’86. Bill leaned over to me and said; “biggest use of electricity in CA is pumping water”. I looked back and said; ”ahh that’s easy, just cover the aqueducts with PV arrays, Water Dept owns the land, it will reduce evaporative losses & dust, get a big ol’ tax credit, provide good payin’ jobs…”. He said; “oh, that’s a good idea”. 38 years later I hear the initial ’test’ prototype is finally being built…. ahh the wheels of progress do grind forward, though a tad bit on the slow side considering the dire conditions of the polar ice caps…

    2) so the next phases that we didn’t quite get to in our short conversation… that big ol’ volume of salt water just west of here (the beautiful calm Pacific Ocean) utilize thermal desalinization (inexpensive super efficient) to yield fresh water, use PV driven pumps (finally being designed & installed) to pump it back into the very geologically (i’ve heard tell of 1,000 year droughts in CA past history) dry reservoirs to drive turbines (seasonal time frame for potential storage of energy) as it’s released for use in the future when it will be sorely needed… there is no excess of solar electricity in CA as some have claimed, it just that there isn’t a clear vision of how to utilize the clean abundant resource and the optimal path forward yet…

    3) of course once you’re gotten to this phase green hydrogen generation from solar electrolysis of water easily doable.

    Future citizens will greatly appreciate the energy/water solution as we help to pay it forward, enjoy! LJG


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