Rep. Huffman Announces $15 Million for California Floating Solar Energy Build Out

Funding part of $19 million investment for innovative solar energy projects to further build resilience to climate change and expand clean domestic energy production

April 05, 2024

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) announced $19.5 million from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to install solar panels in irrigation canals as part of an initiative to study the water efficiency gains and amount of clean energy produced for future larger scale implementation. $15 million of this funding has been awarded to the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority for the Delta-Mendota Canal Floating Solar Project.

The projects in California, Oregon and Utah are funded by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which makes available $25 million for the design, study and implementation of projects to cover Reclamation-related water conveyance facilities with solar panels. Representative Huffman crafted the provision in the IRA that made this funding possible.

“This announcement is a significant milestone for our efforts to combat climate change and transition the country to clean, green energy. Deploying solar panels on our canal systems is a smart solution to our growing water and energy dilemmas – it harnesses clean energy technology to increase efficiency while reducing our carbon footprint and water loss from canal evaporation,” said Rep. Huffman. “Thanks to the visionary work of stakeholders, engineers, climate experts, and the many other partners I’ve worked with over the years on this, I was able to craft a provision to secure this funding which will make our vision a reality.”

The projects announced include:

  • The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, Delta-Mendota Canal Floating Solar Project (California), $15 million. The Authority, Reclamation and the University of California-Merced will collaborate through a public-private-academic partnership to assess the impacts of floating photovoltaic solar arrays on the Delta-Mendota Canal. The pilot intends to deploy potentially up to three floating solar technologies to assess the viability, costs, and benefits of floating solar over canal technologies on large conveyance facilities like the Delta Mendota Canal. The initiative will also validate floating photovoltaics design for moving water, identify and address issues related to maintaining a canal with panels on it, explore the power generation potential, and develop methods to quantify impacts on water quality.
  • North Unit Irrigation District, Main Canal Floating Photovoltaics Project (Oregon), $2.55 million. The district will construct floating photovoltaic solar panels on the Main Canal of the Deschutes Project located near Bend, Oregon. The project will evaluate the impact of floating solar panels on water efficiency gains and amount of clean energy produced.
  • Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, Solar Panels Over the Layton Canal Project (Utah), $1.5 million. The district will cover existing canals with canal-spanning solar panel structures in the upper portion of the Layton Canal near West Haven, Utah. The project will serve as a five-year demonstration of data collection and monitoring to evaluate the technical capability, economic feasibility, and viability for full scale implementation for both Reclamation and the district. The project expects to increase water quality by reducing algal blooms along the canal, produce renewable energy to offset pump station use or sell back to the utility, and significantly reduce water loss to evaporation.

In 2015, Rep. Huffman released a “discussion draft” of his comprehensive legislation to address the growing water crisis in America. Following unprecedented public input, he introduced the Drought Relief and Resilience Act (H.R. 2983) based on ideas and feedback from nearly 1,000 Californians. Provisions from this legislation to support floating solar panel projects were ultimately included in the Inflation Reduction Act, which funded today’s projects.

Installing solar panels in irrigation canals has the potential to provide a variety of benefits, including:

  • Reducing evaporation losses from the canal
  • Increasing efficiency and production of solar energy
  • Creating land savings for open space and agricultural use
  • Minimizing canal maintenance by slowing aquatic plant growth
  • Reducing the energy footprint and carbon emissions required to operate and maintain the facility

President Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and provides much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’ resilience to drought and climate change.

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is also investing $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including rural water, water storage, conservation and conveyance, nature-based solutions, dam safety, water purification and reuse, and desalination.