Solar and Water: A Powerful Combination

Many people equate solar power with rooftops, and that's true. More property owners - commercial and residential - are installing solar panels on their roofs to cut power bills and carbon footprint. Check out what Toys 'R' Us is doing in New Jersey, and what officials in Los Angeles want to do.

But solar energy is popping up all over the place. In backpacks. With the military in Afghanistan. On parking structures and as window coverings. And, increasingly, on or around water.

Solar is appearing at wastewater treatment plants, vineyard irrigation ponds and in settling ponds at gravel mines. There is even the possibility of solar panels on oceans. This New York Times piece, which I read in the San Jose Mercury-News, features wineries in Northern California that moored solar panels in ponds to help produce power.

Vineyard real estate is pricey, and this is a way to conserve precious land. Larry Maguire, chief executive of Far Niente Winery, put it this way in the story: "Vineyard land in this part of the Napa Valley runs somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 per acre. . . We wanted to go solar, but we didn't want to pull out any vines."

Solar-energy systems also are gaining a stronger following here in the San Joaquin Valley, where power bills run high in the summer, and agriculture-related companies use lots of power and water.

The cities of Tulare and Madera use solar at their wastewater plants, which helps reduce energy costs. Learn more about those projects here and here. This Sign on San Diego story has more on how solar works at such plants.

The San Joaquin Valley has some of the most resourceful and efficient farmers in the World. Look for more water-related solar projects; it is a powerful combination.

Photo of solar array at Far Niente Winery by