Symbiotic combination of solar panels with farms & canals: The smart energy and water management

-Dr. Rohini Kitture

The increasing global population accompanied with the increasing demand in energy, food, facilities, made the need for retaining and getting the maximum out of the existing inevitable. The scene of many farmers switching from conventional food farming to solar/energy farming, in the pursuit of higher return on investment, alarmed a bigger food crisis. Thanks to the innovative research groups across the globe, who came up with this idea to lift the solar panels few extra feet off the ground, offering the farmers harvest the crops/food under the solar roofs which are deployed for generating energy. This twofer- called Agrivoltaics, with synergistically increased production of food and energy from the same land, could also control the water evaporation from soil, protecting it from excessive sun-exposure as well.

The right usage of farmland and the available solar energy is being handled well, what about the other resources? For example, water. While using the fertile land for harvesting crops under the solar panel roofs became popular, engineers are also thinking of partially covering the freshwater canals with solar panel canopies, controlling the water evaporation. This ambitious project looks like a costly affair, yet the long-term effects cannot be neglected. With this revolutionary thought in mind, the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) project has come up with this idea of developing solar canopies over canals. If things go as per the plan, the TID should be able to generate 3 gigawatts of energy through solar canopies, covering California’s 4,000 miles of public water infrastructure. Moreover, these canopies will save roughly billion gallons of water being evaporated, which can be used to irrigating farmlands. This brings one project giving three benefits. When most of the land is covered with the elevated solar panel roofs, to produce crop and energy, some more solar canopies over the canals can produce excess energy and save water from evaporation as well, which in turn can be used in farm irrigation.

This next level energy and water management aims to look beyond just renewable energy generation and controlling water evaporation. Through this pilot project, the improvement of the water quality in the canal underneath the canopies will be monitored. The team is also optimistic in controlling the vegetative growth as well. Over the period, the picture will be clear with the limitations and the opportunities for the developments.

If this is equipped with the slim, sleek, and super thin solar panels, the floating solar panels over the lakes would be an interesting project to watch and harvest more! Stay tuned for more interesting updates.

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7 thoughts on “Symbiotic combination of solar panels with farms & canals: The smart energy and water management”

  1. Dr. Pradnya Magdum

    Interesting….Seems optimistic…but a long term goal…
    I am just wondering about floating solar panels…..
    We just have to think about oxygen exchange between water and air for aquatic flora and fauna.
    Thanks for sharing innovative ideas through very lucid language.

  2. Dr. Pradnya Magdum

    Thanks for sharing innovative ideas in lucid language.
    Optimistic but long term goal…
    We just have to think on oxygen exchange between water surface and air for aquatic flora and fauna when designing for floating solar cells.

  3. Shubhangi Manoharan

    What a novel idea! Renewable energy is the only future for us. Floating solar panels is indeed an interesting project to watch for ,world over.
    Being an Indian, I would love the present government to take a keen interest in those projects and try and implement them in India too. So much solar energy is wasted here which put to an optimum use will not only get good returns for the Government but also improve the quality of life for its citizens.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. India is one of the best recipients of solar energy due to its favorable geographical location. It’s high time to focus on utilizing this energy which is in abundance in India, to deal with the energy crisis.

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Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar

Dr. Mashelkar is only the third Indian engineer to have been elected (1998) as Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), London in the twentieth century. He was elected Foreign Associate of US National Academy of Science (2005) and also National Academy of Engineering (2003), Associate Foreign Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2011), Fellow of Royal Academy of Engineering, U.K. (1996), Foreign Fellow of Australian Technological Science and Engineering Academy (2008), Corresponding Member of Australian Academy of Sciences (2017), Fellow of World Academy of Arts & Science, USA (2000), Fellow of US National Academy of Inventors (2017), the first ever Indian from India to be elected and TWAS-Lenovo Science Prize (2018), which is the highest science award of The World Academy of Science.

In 2006, he received the ‘Star of Asia’ Award at the hands of former President of USA, George Bush (Sr). The President of India honoured Dr. Mashelkar with three of the highest civilian awards, namely Padmashri (1991), Padmabhushan (2000) and Padma Vibhushan (2014).

Prof. Satishchandra Ogale

Prof. Satishchandra B. Ogale has had a long 40 years of experience in higher education and research.  He has over 500 publications in international journals, three co-edited books with Springer, Wiley and Elsevier, and 10 granted US patents based on research done in India. 
He is a Reviewer as well as Advisory Board member of many high impact International Journals and is also a popular science writer in regional language marathi.
He has won many Awards, Prizes, and National and International recognitions. He has given numerous invited, plenary and keynote talks in National and International conferences and has supervised over 65 Ph.D. students. 
Prof. Ogale has been a Visiting Professor/ Scientist in many institutions in the USA and Europe on several occasions.

Anupama Engineer

She has previously worked as a Scientist at Agharkar research Institute and at higher management level at Thomas Baker Bioscience Private Limited. She has also taught graduate and post graduate students in Biotechnology & Microbiology during her tenure as a lecturer in Royal College, Mumbai and as a Counselor for IGNOU Biotechnology course. Anupama, is a multitasker with few roles like, entrepreneur, Scientist, manager, a doting mother and many more. Teaching and educating is her passion and she takes every effort to encourage fundamental learning. Anupama holds a vast experience in Start-up processes.

Dr Smita Chaturvedi
Smita is an experimental condensed matter physicist. The quest for multifunctional materials motivates her. Smita finished her PhD from RDVV Jabalpur and BARC Mumbai in the year 2002 and worked as a research associate in IIT Mumbai and Oakland University, Michigan. Smita was awarded as a Fulbright Nehru Academic and Professional excellence fellow in 2018-19. Smita holds more than a decade of research and teaching experience. She possesses good knowledge about education system and research opportunities in India as well as abroad. Music and gardening are her mindful meditations.
Dr. Priyadarshini Karve
Dr Priyadarshini Karve has worked in the areas of household energy, decentralised waste-to-fuel technologies, climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable and climate-ready urbanisation, etc. She runs her own social green enterprise Samuchit Enviro Tech in Pune, focused on enabling access to sustainable products and services. She is also a co-founder of OrjaBox, a startup promoting solar thermal technologies. Dr Karve is a Founder Member of Clean Energy Access Network (CLEAN - a multi-state society of decentralised renewable energy practitioners and entrepreneurs) and Cleaner Cooking Coalition (CCC - an international organisation focused on promoting user-centric cooking energy technologies that are good for health as well as climate). She is also the National Convener of Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC - focused on climate justice issues and working to bring people's voices in policy choices). Her work has been recognised by several national and international awards and honours.
Sanjay Khare
Sanjay Khare ,after his graduation in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, in 1986 has been associated with major Japanese & European Automotive OEMs in Indian Subcontinent for 35 years . Widely travelled across Europe & Asia , he has held positions across diverse functions of Automotive Corporations.
In his current role as Board Member and Vice President at Skoda Auto Volkswagen India , he is Chief Sustainability Catalyst to guide actions at Skoda Auto Volkswagen India along with the sister brands Audi, Porsche & Lamborghini.
He leads an active Climate Resilience program where the automotive major in India has already achieved Zero Waste to Landfill, Water Positive & Zero liquid Discharge Certification, Zero Accidents , targeting an 18.5 MW of installed Roof Top Solar plant at a single Automotive site in India in 2021 and fully Carbon Neutral Production by 2025.
Sanjay has done his Executive MBA from Management development Institute ,Gurgaon specialising in Strategy & Marketing . He has active interests in driving Cultural Change, Competency building , Human Motivation topics while adopting/ innovating the technological advancements and total quality revolution.He is also a Qualified Independent Director registered with Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Govt. of India. An active speaker on Automotive & Sustainability topics on National & International forums.
In personal life, he is an Endurance Cyclist having participated in many adventure ride expeditions . He also spends his time in developing mastery on Indian Classical Music instrument Sitar.