Historically, wastewater ponds and reservoirs in California have been used by water utilities for one purpose: storing water and treating wastewater. This is about to change. With a statewide push towards sustainable energy sources, California utilities are turning to their own aquatic real estate to build floating solar panels to reduce operating costs and minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
Sonoma County Water Authority, one of the first utilities to embrace floating solar panels, had already built solar arrays on rooftops and parking lots. With no more room for expansion, the agency turned to their existing wastewater ponds. “We were looking then for disturbed acreage that was going to be out of sight, out of mind,” said general manager Grant Davis in an interview with News Deeply. “What better place than a wastewater pond?”
In total, SCWA is planning five floating solar projects. At full build-out, the Agency is expecting to produce enough electricity annually to power 3,500 homes. “We’ll see about $33,000 in annual power savings”, said Davis in his interview with News Deeply.
Speaking with KQED, Mark Jacobson, Director of the Atmosphere and Energy program at Stanford University, claims there are many other benefits of putting solar panels on water – especially, he says, for drought – conscious California. “A big source of water loss over reservoirs is evaporation,” Jacobs says. “When you put solar photovoltaics over a reservoir, you reduce evaporation, you trap more the water and that saves more of the water.”
Six-hundred miles to south, the San Diego County Water Authority is planning to join the movement. The Agency plans to install a 6-megawatt solar array by 2018 that will cover almost 10 percent of the water surface on the 200-acre Olivenhain Reservoir. “It was a great opportunity for the Water Authority to reduce our costs. It could also have benefits by reducing water evaporation and water quality issues such as algae bloom.” Energy Program Manager Kelly Rodgers said in an interview with FOX 5. 
Aquatic solar energy generation has seemingly found a home in California. As the state continues to push towards a more sustainable future, floating solar systems may have a role to play, curbing water waste while producing carbon-free power for a sustainable future.
 Weiser, Matt. Floating Solar Power: A New Frontier for Green-Leaning Water Utilities. August 17, 2017. Web. https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2017/08/17/floating-solar-power-a-new-frontier-for-green-leaning-water-utilities
 Weiser. Floating Solar Power: A New Frontier for Green-Leaning Water Utilities. August 17, 2017. Web. https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2017/08/17/floating-solar-power-a-new-frontier-for-green-leaning-water-utilities
 Gorn, David. Are Floating Solar Panels Energy’s New Frontier? May 13, 2017. Web. https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/05/13/are-floating-solar-panels-energys-new-frontier/
 Chambers, Jaime. Floating Solar Panels Possible Wave of Future. May 15, 2017. Web. http://fox5sandiego.com/2017/05/15/floating-solar-panels-possible-wave-of-future/
Picture Reference: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flickr