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California utility set to test whether covering canals with solar panels can save water

A California utility is set to test out whether covering canals with solar panels can save water by preventing evaporation, among other benefits.

Project Nexus is being run on a small stretch of canals operated by the Turlock Irrigation District in central California. The idea is based on an academic paper, which suggested doing this could also generate solar energy on land that wouldn’t have to be disturbed. Last year, The Show spoke with Brandi McKuin, one of the authors of that paper.

"Across the West, this makes sense, especially in areas that are having water shortages, and we really need to think about strategies like the solar canals to adapt to these stresses and prepare for the future to make our water infrastructure more resilient to climate change," McKuin said.

The Turlock Irrigation District is the oldest irrigation district in California and has 250 miles of canals in all shapes and sizes.

And Josh Weimer says the pilot project will be done on two stretches — one pretty narrow one, and one wider one. It’ll test out different kinds of construction, technology to mount the solar panels and different kinds of panels themselves. The plan is to break ground next year and be done in 2024.

Weimer is the external affairs manager at the Turlock Irrigation District.

The Show spoke with him to learn more about Project Nexus.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.