The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is taking solar steps to reducing their energy consumption. As of a snowy day in December, a 594-panel, 104 kW solar array was officially online off the shoulder of a section of Interstate 5 in northern Oregon. The power generated will provide roughly one third of the lighting needs for a nearby interchange.
The pioneering solar system, the first of its kind, is grid-tied. During the day, the interchange lights will be off and the panels will collect solar energy, feeding it to Portland General Electric (PGE). At night the utility will return that power back to the interchange for lighting. ODOT expects to cut their power bills by roughly 33% thanks to the roadside solar system. More efficient lighting on down the road would only increase those savings (even more so if a proposed feed-in tariff succeeds in the Oregon legislature).
This solar array, located at the junction of I-5 and highway 217 just south of Portland, was a pilot project for ODOT and has been very successful. It is now expected to be the first of many installations for ODOT’s Solar Highway program. It looks as if Oregon residents should get used to seeing solar panels line their highways.
And what better way for solar power to dig further into our nation’s consciousness than by lining one of the nation’s busiest freeways? A win-win for the Oregon and the solar industry.