Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oregon's Solar Powered Highway

I authored another guest posting on Solar Power Rocks. You can see it on their site or you can read it below.

In August 2008, Oregon hatched a plan to be the first US state to have highway-side solar panels. In the above picture, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski ceremoniously placed the first panel. 

Four months later, on the snowy 19th day of December 2008 the program flipped the switch and started generating a modest amount of power. 

This is a 104kW system, made up of 594 panels. Its annual production is estimated to be 128 megawatt-hours.  This is enough to power over 10 typical homes' complete annual electricity use. However, the Oregon Dept of Transportation (ODOT) is using it to power the lights at the I-5 & I-205 exchange. 

During the day when the lights are off and the sun is out, the PV panels will spin the meter backwards. The result is that ODOT will have a power bill for this area that is about one third less than it was last year. 
If ODOT is able to switch to more efficient bulbs in the future, these PV panels will become an even bigger percentage of their power needs. 

Below is an aerial view of the panels. 
Here is January 20th, 21st, and 22nd's power production for this system. There is no publicly available monitoring yet. If you are used to reading solar output charts, you can tell that the 20th (on the left) was a clear sunny day. The 21st & 22nd, on the other hand, were cloudy. 

This pilot program has gone well and is likely the first of many to come. Expect to see more solar panels along the highways of Oregon and possibly even on other ODOT facilities. 

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