The city of Holtville, 120 miles east of San Diego, has signed an agreement with Australian innovation company Infratech that will see the solar array implemented into a water treatment plant used for the city’s drinking water supply and irrigation.

Infratech claims that the system can generate around 50% more energy than rooftop solar systems and can deliver consumer savings of up to 15% on regular electricity prices.

Holtville council member, David Bradshaw, who also serves as the assistant water manager for community-owned utility Imperial Irrigation District said: “Our decision to use Infratech’s floating solar system means we are not losing valuable farmland to massive solar farms; we can use three existing ponds and save our soil for increasing our capacity to produce crops.

“We’re in the desert, and we lose more than five feet of water a year to evaporation while typically only receiving around three inches of rain annually. Also, our main source of water, the Colorado River via the Hoover Dam, is currently in drought.

“Our residents use the water for drinking and irrigation, so this installation means the quality and taste of that water will improve while also ensuring we are on our way to meeting California’s renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.”

The array consists of 3576 panels, 276 rafts and 12 treatment pumps and will float on the treatment plant reducing the need for chemicals to treat the water.

The shade provided by the rafts will limit also the number of blue-green algae produced which in turn keeps the water cool and further raise its quality.

Situated on the San Andreas Fault line, California’s 50% renewable energy target needs to produce innovations that can withstand earthquakes and tremors. The floating system can shift on the water surface and is purpose built to withstand tremors and waves.

Down under

Infratech opened its first floating solar system in Jamestown earlier this year in partnership with Centre for NanoScale Science and Technology at Flinders University in South Australia.

The 300kg Jamestown array is the first innovation in Australia that is putting energy back into the local grid to power the council’s water facility.

Sink or swim

Using the solar array to protect water quality is a vital step for a state that saw droughts cost $2.2bn and lost 17,000 seasonal jobs thanks to water cuts.

To combat the drought, one Californian company is trying to crowdfund $10m to part-fund the building of the US’ largest solar desalination project.

Across the pond, Manchester was chosen as the location for Europe’s largest floating solar power system which will generate 2.7GWh of renewable, zero-carbon energy each year.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie