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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Floating Solar in Santa Barbara

Aerial view of solar panels floating in pond

Group Members: Trent Buchanan, Andrea Gracia Duran, Colin Schimmelfing, Carlos Simms, Joe Walderman

Faculty Advisors: Roland Geyer

Client: City of Santa Barbara




Currently, approximately half of California‚Äôs electricity comes from fossil fuels. The drawbacks of using this source to generate electricity are straightforward: greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, and air pollution related to respiratory health concerns for local communities. However, despite these drawbacks, siting renewable energy is difficult in California due to high land costs and concerns over habitat loss. Using floating photovoltaic (FPV) systems on suitable water bodies around the state can prove to be a solution for these challenges. For the City of Santa Barbara, exploring the feasibility of developing a FPV system on the surface of Lauro Canyon Reservoir will help meet its commitment to use 100% renewable energy by 2030, in addition to providing other water quality benefits.

The objective of this project is to support the development of the FPV system by identifying potential opportunities, difficulties and concerns for various stakeholders. These include analyzing financial, regulatory, and technical components necessary to gain permitting approvals from relevant state agencies. Our group aims to engage with project stakeholders to understand their particular concerns regarding the design, construction and maintenance of the system. Our analysis will include plausible solutions to these challenges, as well as the quantified additional benefits that include: reduction of evaporative losses, improvement in water quality due to lower algal growth, as well as provision of clean and reliable energy for the local Santa Barbara community. The successful application of this FPV system would allow us to publish a framework that helps guide adoption of FPV systems in municipalities around the country.

Client contact: Alelia Parenteau

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