Idaho Law Review


One rarely mentioned impact of global climate change is that higher temperatures are causing water in reservoirs and canals to evaporate at faster rates. This increased evaporation is placing additional pressure on already limited water supplies in some arid regions of the world. Finding ways to reduce evaporative water losses is thus becoming an increasingly important policy challenge in certain areas across the globe. Of course, generating more carbon-free energy also continues to be an important policy focus in the face of global warming and its threatening effects as well. One relatively new renewable energy strategy that can simultaneously help to address both challenges is to install solar panels over water. “Solar over water” projects are installations of photovoltaic solar panels on a water body’s surface or just above the surface of canals or other waterways. The panels generate carbon-free electricity, and the shade that they create also reduces evaporation rates so that more of a region’s precious water reaches end-users. Unfortunately, existing policies in many jurisdictions create unjustifiable obstacles to solar over water development. This Article uses the ongoing effort to install solar panels above portions of the Central Arizona Project’s canal system as a case study to highlight the significant potential benefits of solar over water development. The Article then identifies specific policy changes capable of better facilitating and promoting these innovative and uniquely valuable renewable energy projects.

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