Addressing Arizona’s Significant Drought Challenge with a Solar-Over-Canal Initiative

Saad Iqbal | 🗓️Modified: December 9, 2023 | ⏳Read Time: 3 min | 👁Post Views: 97

Arizona’s innovative solar-over-canal initiative aims to combat the state’s major drought issue while generating clean energy. The Arizona Department of Water Resources announced the collaborative effort between the Gila River Indian Community and the US Army Corps of Engineers to address water scarcity and promote renewable energy in Arizona’s arid landscapes.

Amidst moderate to extreme drought conditions, the $6.74 million project stands as the first of its kind in the United States, pioneering sustainable energy solutions. Notably, a similar project in California is still in the planning stages, positioning the Arizona endeavor as a trailblazer in the nation’s pursuit of environmentally conscious energy solutions.

The primary focus of the initial phase is to install solar photovoltaic shades along a significant 1,000-foot stretch of the 1-10 Level Top canal. This strategic placement harnesses abundant sunlight while acting as a barrier against water evaporation in the scorching desert heat.

The solar-over-canal approach’s economic viability is crucial, eliminating the need for additional land by utilizing existing canal infrastructure. This cost efficiency is pivotal for ensuring the scalability and replicability of such projects on a larger scale compared to traditional solar farms.

Professor Roger Bales, renowned for contributions to a similar solar canal project in California, emphasizes the potential ripple effects, noting that covering California’s canals with solar panels could save over 65 billion gallons of water annually.

The broader implications of canal-based solar projects extend beyond Arizona, potentially benefiting arid regions across the United States. Beyond power generation, the initiative provides shade, acting as a protective layer to prevent excessive water evaporation, aligning with effective water conservation measures.

In a state grappling with an “extreme long-term drought,” the solar-over-canal initiative’s dual-purpose function addresses the need for water conservation. Additionally, the water beneath the solar panels plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal panel operating temperatures, potentially boosting power production by approximately 3 percent.

Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, praises the project’s ingenuity, highlighting it as a creative solution for a more sustainable future. Leveraging existing infrastructure, such as the Level Top Canal, for sustainable and dependable energy is a win-win scenario fostering cooperation and innovation.

Inspired by overseas endeavors like the Canal Solar Power Project in Gujarat, India, the Arizona project signifies a significant step in addressing energy needs and water conservation. With completion set for 2025, the project represents a beacon of hope for sustainable initiatives, paving the way for future endeavors prioritizing environmental stewardship and innovative problem-solving amidst pressing climate issues.

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