Floating solar panels to power California water treatment plant

Infratech's floating solar array at a water treatment plant in Jamestown, South Australia

Infratech’s floating solar array at a water treatment plant in Jamestown, South Australia

Solar power is continuing its explosive growth. In the first half of this year, the solar industry has supplied 40% of all new 2015 electric generating capacity. The U.S. solar industry is expected to reach nearly 8,000 MW for the year, and 28,000 MW in total.

The ways solar is being utilized is also expanding. Earlier this year, we wrote about solar successfully being used as floating arrays generating power across one of India’s state’s 85,000 km long canal system. Now a city in Southern California’s Imperial Valley plans to float a solar array across the top of a new water treatment plant that will be used for the town’s drinking water supply and irrigation.

The city of Holtville, located about 120 miles east of San Diego, has signed an agreement with Aussie company Infratech Industries to manufacture the one megawatt floating solar system including 3,576 panels, 276 rafts and 12 treatment pumps. The system will likewise significantly reduce evaporation and decrease reliance on chemicals such as chlorine to treat the water. Photosynthesis, which creates blue-green algae, will be limited by the shade provided by the panels, which will also keep the water cool and further raise its quality.

Californian sunshineKnown  as the “Winter Salad Bowl” of the United States and the “Carrot Capital of the World”, Holtville[‘s agricultural heartland produces more than 80 crops.

City Council Member, David Bradshaw, who also serves as the assistant water manager for community-owned utility Imperial Irrigation District, said the deployment would allow Holtville to save valuable agricultural space for farming while reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.

“Our decision to use Infratech’s floating solar system means we are not losing valuable farmland to massive solar farms; we can use three existing ponds and save our soil for increasing our capacity to produce crops,” he said.

Infratech's floating solar array 2“We’re in the desert, and we lose more than five feet of water a year to evaporation while typically only receiving around three inches of rain annually. Also, our main source of water, the Colorado River via the Hoover Dam, is currently in drought. This installation means the quality and taste of that water will improve,” he said, “while also ensuring we are on our way to meeting California’s renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.”

With California known for its earthquakes and frequent tremors, the floating system will be able to shift on the surface when tremors occur and will be built to withstand waves. The system is expected to be fully installed and operational by mid-2016.


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