WRRC Water Webinar: Solar River, Covering and Powering Canals with Photovoltaic Energy

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Photo: Computer rendering CAP canal around the Picacho Peak lift station

Benjamin Lepley




Benjamin Lepley
Principal Architect at Tectonicus
David H. DeJong, Ph.D.
Director, Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project

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Moving water is the largest energy user in Arizona and thermo-electric power is the largest user of water according to the USGS. Arizona’s energy is still dominated by thermo-electric power at 83% with renewables at 17%, thus Arizona energy’s consumptive water footprint is massive. In 2015, Tectonicus started researching the feasibility of deploying canal-solar systems in the US. Reports published in 2014 and 2016 by the US Bureau of Reclamation cited the challenges to this idea such as canal access, security, structure cost, constructability, and operations and maintenance. Taking these hurdles as design challenges in 2015, Tectonicus started researching ways to solve these issues. This WRRC Water Webinar will provide information about how Tectonicus has built a controlled environment to test evaporation, algae growth, PV performance, and measure the micro-climate effects on the water and air, and cover the implications of the research. The tested effects, measured through instrumentation, are then mathematically modeled and applied to a larger system-scaled analysis of central Arizona canals for techno-economic impact analysis. The analysis compares the economics of existing utility-scale solar systems with canal-solar projects of the same size. The lab analysis will continue through to 2024; however, the preliminary results show canal-solar has a greater net present value than utility scale solar with water quality being the biggest benefit. Tectonicus is working with George Cairo Engineers on several full-scale projects throughout the state including on the Gila River Indian Community canals.