Solar panels and California’s canals could make a winning pair

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • A new feasibility study combines the California water channels with solar energy.
  • The Plastic Pollution Exemption Act was introduced in Congress to address the plastic pollution crisis.
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that connects you with top solar installers in your area for personalized solar estimates. Tesla is now offering price adjustments, so it’s important to look for the best deals. Click here to learn more and receive your offers. – *Display.

Solar channels and California channels

Water supplies in California are difficult as the state is constantly threatened by drought. The California State Water Project is one of the largest public water and energy companies in the world. It includes more than 700 miles of canals. And that’s just part of California’s canals – there are nearly 4,000 miles in total.

Scientists from the University of California at Santa Cruz have just discovered a win-win situation for both California’s water channels and green energy: Build photovoltaic arrays over the channel, which they used in the study “Energy and water benefit together” described covering channels with solar panels ”, published in Nature Sustainability.

The paper is a feasibility study, but it has the potential to be a tangible solution because, as the study notes:

Case studies of solar photovoltaic arrays over the canal have shown that photovoltaic performance is improved due to the cooler microclimate next to the canal. In addition, it has been shown that shade from photovoltaic modules reduces evaporation and possibly the growth of aquatic weeds.

In addition, the panels do not have to occupy any new land. The scientists analyzed three different configurations for eight different locations:

The three solar PV structures included a floor-mounted system, a channel-spanning steel truss design used in Gujarat, India, and a channel-spanning suspension cable design used in Punjab, India.

Our analysis of financial performance included comparisons of the present value (NPV) and balanced energy cost (LCOE) of duct to floor structures. Our design comparisons took into account improved PV performance due to evaporative cooling and avoided the cost of reducing water and weeds in the water.

The study showed that there wasn’t much of a difference between the three project types when it came to LCOE:

This is because, in the case of the over-channel designs, the increase in annual costs was proportional to the increase in annual energy output due to evaporative cooling.

The researchers recommend that the next step should be pilot projects or initial field trials. Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law, summarized the importance of solar radiation through canals [via Wired]::

You are taking something that has already been changed by human activity and doubling the benefits it offers. This is the deep piece.

Get rid of the plastic pollution law

US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) passed the Plastic Pollution Free Act yesterday in Congress. Simply put, the calculation has three goals:

  • Reduce plastic pollution before there is a risk of pollution
  • Increase recycling rates
  • Protect frontline and fenceline communities

Or in a slightly more detailed explanation, Merkley’s website explains the purpose of the bill:

The legislation would reduce plastic production, increase recycling, and protect frontline and fenceline communities from exposure to toxic emissions from plastic waste by changing industry incentives. The bill would shift the cleaning burden on the companies that made the plastics so they have financial motivation to stop the burning and dumping. Strengthening the protection of environmental justice; Eliminating gaps in the export of waste; and the nationwide expansion of existing laws that have been shown to work at state and local levels, among others.

Merkley, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Environmental Justice and Chemical Safety, said:

Plastic pollution is a full blown environmental and health crisis, and it is time we passed these laws to get them under control.

The bill is approved by over 500 groups. This short documentary by award-winning activist, filmmaker, and co-founder of the # BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, Stiv Wilson, explains it best. The film explains how color communities have been influenced by plastic production and waste, and where clean energy goes into that bill. The film is a must:

Breathe this air

Photo: Ian Kluft / Flickr

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