A toll highway in Denver has become a clean energy powerhouse. A series of solar panel arrays covering a 25km stretch of the E-470 was commissioned late last month.
Generating electricity to power streetlights, signs, toll collection equipment, toll plazas, maintenance facilities and the E-470 Administrative Headquarters; it is expected that the installations at 22 sites along the highway will collect enough solar energy to power a third of the toll road’s operations.
Electricity production in the first year is estimated to top one million kilowatt hours (kWh).
Over a 20-year period, the E-470 Solar Project will avoid emitting 24,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to burning 61,000 barrels of oil.
Built under a power purchase agreement with Excel Energy, the panels were installed at no cost to the owners of E-470, who have committed to purchase electricity generated by the solar arrays for 20 years.
Like the sea of rooftops in our towns and cities, our roadways also provide a massive resource for power generation. Using the land that would otherwise have little use to generate clean electricity closer to the point of end consumption.
Taking the concept of solar roads a step further, we may even see roads themselves becoming solar electricity generators in the future.
Solar Roadways is developing special solar panels that act as a road surface. According to the company, if all asphalt surfaces in the U.S. hosted solar panels, they would generate three times more power than the US consumes – almost enough to power the entire world.
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In 2009, Solar Roadways was awarded a contract from the Federal Highway Administration to build the first Solar Road Panel prototype. Last year, the company was awarded a follow-up 2-year contract to construct a prototype parking lot that will be tested under all weather and sunlight conditions.