Floating solar panels proposed for Sweetwater Reservoir – NBC San Diego

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They generate green energy. The save money. They slow evaporation. They float.

And the Sweetwater Authority wants to put them on its Sweetwater Reservoir.

General Manager Carlos Quintero said the water agency is exploring the environmental impact of a 9.5 acre floating solar array that would be placed near the Sweetwater Dam. It would cover roughly 1.3% of the reservoir, Quintero said, and could generate as much as two-thirds of the energy needed to make the reservoir water drinkable and decrease a small amount of evaporation.

“Really, the main benefit is to our ratepayers,” Quintero said. “We could be saving upwards of $27 million in a 25-year span.”

The idea does not float with a group of concerned residents who started Save Sweetwater Reservoir.

“I’m not ready to concede that floating panels on water surface is appropriate here,” said long-time Bonita resident Karen Henry.

Henry argued the floating solar panels could introduce more biological waste from birds and rodents. She also installing the panels flies in the face of the water authority’s own water diversion system, which keeps industrial runoff from entering the reservoir.

“When you build a floating solar panel, you’re creating industrialization on your water, and you’re bypassing this diversion system,” Henry said with a shrug. “Just because you can treat the water and take a contaminant out doesn’t mean you should allow that contaminant into the water.”

Quintero said water quality is the reservoir agency’s priority and that the state division of drinking water wouldn’t let it be any other way.

“They’re not going to let us put anything [out there] that jeopardizes the quality of the drinking water,” Quintero said. “Rest assured that our mission is to provide safe drinking water to our customers.”

Water agencies in other states have deployed floating solar panels on reservoirs. Sweetwater would be the first in California. Quintero said Sweetwater hopes to make a decision within the next 18 months on whether to proceed with construction.

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