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In India, solar panels aren’t just making energy. They’re also parasols that are saving water.
Throughout much of India, summer temperatures linger in the high 80s or into the 90s. The heat evaporates water from the 80,000 kilometers – about 48,000 miles – of irrigation canals in the province of Gujarat, where crops feeding millions of people depend on the canals to survive.
Increasingly in Gujarat, irrigation canals are being shielded by solar panels installed overhead, high enough for people to work beneath them and low enough to deflect sun rays that would steal the canal’s water.
Other benefits: many small villages in India aren’t connected to the country’s soot-belching, coal-fired electric grid. The solar panels bring clean electricity to rural areas, charging cell phones and replacing the campfires or dangerous kerosene lanterns that have previously been the only sources of light after dark.
Also, the canals’ flowing water helps cool the panels, which can boost their efficiency by as much as 2.5 percent, according to AHA Solar Photovoltaics, based in Ahmedabad.
If 30 percent of Gujarat’s canals could be roofed with solar panels, the project would deliver 18,000 megawatts of power, the same amount as covering 90,000 acres of land with panels instead, the Gujarat Electricity Company has calculated.
So far, eight Indian states are installing solar panels over their irrigation canals.
TRENDPOST: Southern California is cross-hatched with 4,000 miles of canals channeling water from mountain rains and snowmelt to farm fields and urban centers. Covering those canals with solar panels could prevent 65 billion gallons of water a year from disappearing into the atmosphere, a University of California study found, enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of cropland or provide enough water for two million households for a year.
In a world increasingly plagued by drought, covering small waterways with solar panels would not only boost water supplies but also spare disappearing arable land to produce crops instead of electricity.

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