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A solar canal rises in India

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India is testing out an idea that marries solar panels with irrigation canals.

A 1 MW project has been built over nearly half a mile of the Narmada Canal in the state of Gujarat in India, and it will not only produce electricity but also conserve land and water, the state government said Monday. The project is meant to show an efficient use of land in an agricultural region by putting solar panels over a waterway rather than over fertile ground. It also should reduce evaporation of the canal water by an estimated 237,750 gallons of water each year, the state government said.

The Gujarat State Electricity Corp. developed the project and hired U.S.-based SunEdison to build it. The state government plans to inaugurate the project in the Mehsana district on Tuesday.

The idea of putting solar panels over water to save land and water isn’t new, but it’s not widely deployed either. A New York Times story last year outlined several projects – including two at California vineyards – that have done so by installing solar panels over ponds. The story also talked about the idea of covering the California Aqueduct with solar panels, but an official from the state agency overseeing the aqueduct expressed concerns over the stability of solar panels and the ability of repair workers to fix leaks and other problems at the 400-mile canal if they have to contend with massive structures of solar panels and their mounting systems.

Gujarat has been busy with solar power project development over the past few years. The state, which encourages solar energy installation by guaranteeing premium prices for the solar electricity, boasts at least 600 MW of solar and 2,580 MW of wind energy generation, which makes it one of the largest renewable energy producing state in the country.

The state celebrated reaching that achievement last week. With that much solar and wind developed, Gujarat officials said they had achieved their renewable energy purchase goal. It’s unclear whether that means renewable energy project development will slow down – I posed this question to Gujarat officials last week and will update the post when I get an answer.

The 1 MW project only covers a small section of the canal, whose main waterway runs nearly 285 miles. If you add all the side channels, then the overall length is about 11,806 miles. So there is still plenty of space to put more solar panels over them.

Photo courtesy of the Gujarat government

5 Responses to “A solar canal rises in India”

  1. Why not do both, solar heating/cookers and solar electricity. No doubt its more efficient to harvest the heat for cooking directly, but there is more use of the energy in the form of electricity. In any case, by using solar cookers we are reducing the use of fossil fuel not much of electricity.

  2. Alok Sharma

    Subsidized or forced solar electricity putting load on public or energy consumer’s money is ultimate wastage in this poorest nation as it costs unaffordable Rs 17 per kWh at present and is unethical electrified areas. Self financed, unforced spv and csp projects not putting load of its energy cost on others can be allowed. First use free infinite solar heat, steam and light, about 2400 times of our current energy consumption, directly and not as electricity. A solar cooker gives energy equal to one red lpg cylinder in Rs 50, one liter of kerosene in Rs 3.25 and one kWh electricity in Rs 0.25 as a 4 pot box type solar cooker of Rs 1850 can save 30 to 40 cylinders of LPG in its life. 16 lac units of energy given by 1 MW canal top project of Rs 18 crore can be obtained by 2000 solar cookers of Rs 40 lac crore without any need of subsidy and finances. 125 crore such solar cookers 4 per family of 4 can be used in India. I am unable to understand why everybody is praising solar electricity and nobody is opposing it even its being the complete wastage of money and why we are not using infinite free solar heat, light and steam directly without opting solar electricity route in this country marred by scarcity of finances and energy. Only god knows. Come on Indians get my point.

  3. Sudhanshu Saxena

    Go India Go, Gujrat is the most thriving state in India. There are these rays of hopes in the huge population base which in serious deficit.