Biden Admin Announces $5.65M for Solar Installation at Gila River Indian Community

Gila River Casa Blanca Canal
The Solar Over Casa Blanca Canal groundbreaking featured remarks from special guests L-R: USACE Assistant Secretary of Civil Works Michael Connor, Acting Principal Deputy Secretary of the Interior Laura Daniel-Davis, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, and Gila River Govenor Stephen Roe Lewis.

PHOENIX, AZ – The Biden-Harris administration announced $5.65 million from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda for the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona to construct and install solar panels over the Casa Blanca Canal. Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton celebrated the investments with the Gila River Indian Community.  

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is unlocking resources for new and innovative ways to combat the climate crisis, including simultaneously generating renewable energy and increasing water efficiency,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis. “In partnership with local stakeholders, the Interior Department will continue to invest in essential water infrastructure projects that mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and invest in communities across the country.”  

“We look forward to working with the Gila River Indian Community on this novel idea to conserve water and generate renewable energy with funding from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act,” said Reclamation Commissioner Touton. “Reclamation is working hard on projects that support water conservation and energy efficiency. This project will help inform similar projects to better understand their impacts and make that information publicly available so that we can all understand the scale and corresponding benefits they provide.” 

Solar panels placed over canals have the potential to create several significant benefits, including:  

  • Generating renewable energy 
  • Reducing evaporation losses of the canal
  • Increasing efficiency and production of solar panels because of the cooling effect of the water beneath the panels 
  • Creating land savings for open space and agricultural use 
  • Reducing facility maintenance by mitigating algae and/or aquatic plant growth 
  • Reducing the energy footprint and carbon emissions required to operate and maintain the facility

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will work with the Gila River Indian Community to cover 2,782 linear feet of the Casa Blanca canal with approximately 2,556 solar panels. The solar panels are expected to generate 1.31 megawatts of clean energy, providing 2.26 million kilowatt-hours of annual electricity to the Gila River Indian Community. This pilot will serve as a five-year study period and provide important information for future solar projects over canals and for the Gila River Indian Community as they seek to include solar panels over 18.5 miles of canal.  

President Biden’s Investing in America agenda represents the largest investment in climate resilience in the nation’s history and provides much-needed resources to enhance Western communities’ resilience to drought and climate change. The Inflation Reduction Act made available $25 million for the design, study and implementation of projects to cover water conveyance facilities with solar panels. The announcement is the first award of this funding, with more expected in the coming months.  

Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Reclamation is also investing $8.3 billion over five years for water infrastructure projects, including rural water, water storage, conservation and conveyance, nature-based solutions, dam safety, water purification and reuse, and desalination. Over the first two years of its implementation, Reclamation selected 372 projects to receive almost $2.8 billion. 

This funding is also advancing President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain climate, clean energy, and other federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.