The Turlock Irrigation District plans to use a $20 million state grant to demonstrate solar panels atop canals.
TID would be the first water agency in the nation to try such a thing if its board votes Tuesday to accept the money.
The panels would feed electricity into transmission lines already along the canals, helping TID boost the renewable sources for its 103,000 or so power customers. The devices also would shade the water, possibly reducing evaporation losses for farmers.
The pilot project grew out of a study last year at the Merced and Santa Cruz campuses of the University of California. Researchers said installing canal panels throughout the Central Valley could get the state halfway to its goal for climate-safe power.