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Irrigation district receives federal tax money to build floating solar panels

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(The Center Square) – The North Unit Irrigation District (NUID) in Central Oregon will receive a $2.5 million federal taxpayer grant to construct and monitor solar panels on the main canal of its Deschutes project.

The irrigation district aims to have floating photovoltaic solar panels on the main canal of the Deschutes project located near Bend.T

he project will let the floating solar panels on a canal be “evaluated, designed, and built to study the water efficiency gains and amount of clean energy produced for future larger scale implementation and as a pilot for the federal Bureau of Reclamation,” according to a press release from the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.

Merkley expressed his support for the project.

“Funding renewable energy resources is a win all around because it addresses climate chaos, saves Oregonians money, and creates good-paying jobs in our rural communities,” Merkley said. “This federal investment for the North Unit Irrigation District’s floating solar project, which blends water efficiency and renewable power sources, further proves Oregon is driving creative solutions to build the sustainable infrastructure needed for a clean energy future.”

His colleague, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, expressed a similar sentiment.“We have to be creative in our fight against the current climate crisis,” Wyden said. “I’m happy to see Oregon chosen to lead the way in addressing two of the biggest issues surrounding efficient renewable energy today: what should be built and where to build it.”

Mike Britton, Executive Manager of NUID, expressed gratitude to the two Senators for helping the organization secure the funding.

“This funding for Floating Photovoltaics is great news for NUID and will demonstrate this important technology for others across the West,” Britton said in the release. “Utilizing our existing canal system as a mechanism to minimize water losses while producing clean renewable energy is a win-win and complements existing and planned renewable energy projects that are part of our ongoing irrigation modernization projects within the District. NUID very much appreciates Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley’s efforts in supporting this project and subsequent funding!”

NUID expects the installation will start by December 2025 and be completed by March 2026, “pending the establishment of an agreement with the Reclamation Bureau,” according to the release.

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