Solar Shoulders Could Add Gigawatts

October 2, 2020

Global Construction Review:

The US could harvest 36TWh of clean energy a year, worth some $4bn in revenue, if states put solar panels on the highway interchange rights-of-way (ROW) they own, a study has concluded.

Most states have more than 200 miles (322km) of ROW at interchanges, around 127,500 acres in area, that is suitable for solar development, finds a new, nationwide mapping tool developed by solar transport innovation group, “The Ray”, and the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas, Austin.

Most states have more than 200 miles (322km) of ROW at interchanges, around 127,500 acres in area, that is suitable for solar development, finds a new nationwide mapping tool developed by solar transport innovation group “The Ray” and the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas, Austin.

For the first time, the tool offers states projections of how much solar power they could generate on their ROWs. As GCR first reported, the study began two years ago.

Putting solar arrays on these patches of unused land would boost America’s total solar power output, currently standing at 69TWh, by 56.5%.

It would also generate cash for states’ departments of transportation (DOTs), the researchers say.

“Interstate solar just makes sense,” said Harriet Langford, founder and president of The Ray, which was set up in honour of her father, Ray C. Anderson. He founded the carpet-tile company, Interface, and became a champion of corporate environmentalism in the 1990s.

“Like my daddy used to say, this is ‘so right, so smart’,” Langford added. “As our transportation systems become smarter and electrified, we will need more energy available, closer to the interstate and interstate exits, and more funding to support the infrastructure demands. By enabling renewable energy generation using the idle roadsides, our DOTs can help to fill this gap.”

Their analysis found that most states have ROW solar potential in the hundreds of GWh per year. Texas, Illinois, California and Florida lead the pack with their potential for more than 1,500 GWh/yr each.

2 Responses to “Solar Shoulders Could Add Gigawatts”

  1. grindupbaker Says:

    If “Most states” is 40 States (20,400 km**2) that 36TWh / year averages only 0.20 w/m**2 net which seems very low. Needs more data to know what’s actually included.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Of course it’s a matter of who is responsible for the ROW in each sector, and whether power companies have convenient (i.e., affordable) access to grid connections.

    In Austin we have an advantage in getting solar power from further west, such that the maximum solar input out there is closer to the time of local maximum temp (~5pm). Perhaps the priority for solar development can be given to patches that are located sufficiently west of high A/C usage areas.


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