Costa Rica solar canal
The concept is still in early stages
But Costa Rica could create a cost-effective, clean energy project, by installing solar panels on top of a network of irrigation canals.
With up to 70 kilometers – 110 miles - of canal potentially available, the project could generate some 100 megawatts of effective power.
The canal option eliminates the need to buy land, while conserving water.
As far as land is concerned, a 100 megawatt conventional solar farm typically needs around 25 million square meters of land – 270 million square feet.
Land in locations with high potential for solar power may be cheap.
But even desert land costs money.
The other benefit of capping an irrigation canal is reduced evaporation, with annual savings of around 10 million liters of water – 2.5 million gallons – for each kilometer of panels.
A pilot project already exists, with the inaguration in India last year of a solar canal, developed jointly by United States-based Sun Edison and the Gujarat State Electricity Corporation (Spanish only).
The project uses 3,600 polycrystalline solar modules on panels extending 750 meters.
SunEdison is one of the world's largest renewable energy developers, with 2014 revenues of $2.5 billion.