Solar Arrays Along Highways, A Good Idea

Germany has been doing it for years, but the only state in the US that’s been leasing roadsides for solar arrays is Oregon, and now Minnesota is considering it. 

Why not generate clean energy and make some money while you’re at it on all that empty space? In Minnesota alone, there’s more than 250,000 acres along highways.

Minnesota’s Department of Transportation has asked solar companies for proposals to rent highway rights of way by November 3. 

"We’ve already been approached by several companies expressing interest, so we thought we should be fair and put it out there and give everyone a chance,”  Rick Morey, project manager, told the  Duluth News Tribune. "We think it has big potential."

The RFP sets the minimum size at 1 megawatt (MW) which covers about an acre of land. They expect to choose up to five sites for a pilot project.

"We’ve got a lot of retaining walls, and noise walls, too. Maybe they could hang solar panels on those? We don’t know yet,” he says. 

Oregon started with a 104 kilowatt project near Portland at the interchange of Interstates 5 and 205. Then, in 2012, a much larger 1.75 MW project went up on 7 acres at a nearby rest stop. It supplies 11% of the electricity for the Department of Transportation’s local offices, and is interplanted with corn and cabbage. Another large roadside project is planned.

Oregon Rest Stop

For some reason, Oregon leases the 7-acre site for just $100 a year in addition to sharing the Renewable Energy Credits the project generates. "I get calls and e-mails from people who see these projects and are interested in solar. It’s good for people to see that their electricity really can come from something other than coal,"
Allison Hamilton, solar highway program manager for Oregon Department of Transportation, told Duluth News Tribune.

It solves another problem for state agencies, which more often these days, are directed to use clean energy and cut their emissions. 

If you would like to apply for Minnesota’s pilot program, click on P/T Notices at this website: 

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