Project will test covering Weber County canal with solar panels – Standard-Examiner

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Photo supplied, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District

An undated view of the Layton Canal in Weber County.

WEBER COUNTY — Thanks to some recently acquired federal funds, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District is set to embark on a scientific undertaking to study the benefits of covering a portion of a local canal with solar paneling, a project the U.S. Department of the Interior says will “simultaneously (decrease) evaporation of critical water supplies and (advance) clean energy goals.”

According to the Department of the Interior, the water district was among the recipients of $19 million as part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda. Similar projects in California and Oregon also are receiving funding.

A press release said Weber Basin was the recipient of $1.5 million for its project proposal.

“The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District will cover existing canals with canal-spanning solar panel structures in the upper portion of the Layton Canal,” the release said. “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 (the Bureau of) 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.”

Jonathan Parry, assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, told the Standard-Examiner on Monday that it was a perfect project for the district to pursue.

“We were made aware of some monies that were available to determine the feasibility and cost effectiveness of placing solar panels over some canals,” he said. “We were fortunate in that we operate and maintain a decent amount of federal canals that were constructed as part of the Weber Basin project. Our relationship and our partnership with the federal government as it relates to these types of projects and feasibility and things like that is as secure as you can get.”

He said plans are to construct 1,400 feet of solar panels over a concrete-lined stretch of the Layton Canal in western Weber County close to one of the pump stations near the beginning of the canal.

However, Parry said it will be some time before this installation is made.

“Now that the bureau’s made the announcement, we’ve still got to get agreements in place and make sure that all of those documents as far as the administrative side of things are completed,” he said. “We anticipate that taking about four months, at which point we’ll enter into the feasibility and design process, which we anticipate taking about a year to go through the procurement of equipment and the design. Construction we anticipate taking anywhere from a year to 18 months. We’re probably a good two years, as it sits right now, from starting this project, having those panels in and being monitoring. We hope to accelerate that, but that’s probably a realistic, conservative timeline that we’re operating under.”

Despite the project still being a long way from completion and implementation, Parry said there’s excitement for it among officials.

“We’re constantly looking at diversifying our energy portfolio and making sure that we’re doing things as cost-effectively as possible, utilizing new technologies that are coming on to the market that can help us be more efficient and optimized in our operations,” he said. “This is certainly one of those opportunities we see being able to leverage technology as it’s really progressed over the last several years and decades, diversifying that energy portfolio and really continuing to demonstrate efficient and sustainable methods of continuing our operations.”

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