The US’ First Solar-Powered Roadside Sound Barrier Systems Will Power 100 Houses

Not bad for what is normally wasted space.
Christopher McFadden

The state of Massachusetts might become the first to install the first-ever solar-powered roadside sound barrier, Energy News Network reported. Designed by a local company called Ko-Solar, this innovative system will replace old regular barrier panels with solar ones. 

The company specializes in installing panels in less obvious places like industrial estates, and parking lots, so this application would be the perfect addition to their repertoire. If all goes to plan, Interstate 95 in the Boston area may get an interesting renewable facelift very soon. 

To this end, Ko-Solar has worked to develop a pilot project with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to put solar panels on a half-mile stretch of sound barriers on the interstate. This will be achieved by attaching a metal grid to the sides of around 160 existing concrete sound barriers on the southbound side of the I-95. 

“If this is successful, it opens the door to many more sites,” said Mohammed Siddiqui, a partner in Ko-Solar, the company developing the project with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. “Why don’t we just adapt what we already have and retrofit those existing structures? Most states have sound barriers.”

The grid will not only mount the panels to the sound barriers, but it will allow them to be angled to maximize solar capture during the day. The panels will be installed on the roadside face of the barrier. 

Ownership of the installation will be awarded to Solect Solar, and the MassDOT will buy any power generated by the panels at a few cents per kilowatt-hour cheaper than the basic utility rate.

It is expected that this innovative pilot project will be able to generate around 800 megawatt-hours of power every single year. Not bad for what is normally wasted space. It should also be enough power to supply electricity to 100 homes.

The project does have some potential pitfalls, however. The sound barrier solar installation will be closely monitored by the state to ensure that the metal grids do not affect the structural integrity of the sound barriers. 

They also want to know how the local weather may, or may not, affect the sound barriers too. It is also important to find out if the panels may introduce a potential glare risk to drivers. 

This interesting pilot project forms parts of the wider Massachusetts Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. This program offers incentives for residential and commercial solar projects throughout the Massachusetts area. 

"The installation qualifies for an extra 6 cents per kilowatt-hour under a provision that gives a boost to projects constructed over an area also used for transportation purposes. In September, the plan also received a $345,000 grant from the state Department of Energy Resources as part of a program that helps state agencies and colleges pursue clean energy projects," explains Energy News Network.

This interesting project will be the first of its kind in the United States and is expected to go live sometime in the spring of 2022. 

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