The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is launching a groundbreaking solar technology that may change how citizens look at U.S. highways, railways, and other transportation facilities. This highway solar noise barrier project will be the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
In 2015, Ko-Solar (www.ko-solar.com) and its partners approached MassDOT to discuss the concept of PVNBs. After comprehensive coordination and conceptual design work, MassDOT has agreed to this pilot PVNB project along Interstate 95 in Lexington, Massachusetts. The project involves retrofitting an existing noise barrier on Route 128 into a PVNB that will be built and financed in partnership with Solect Energy (www.solect.com), a Massachusetts-based solar energy powerhouse. MassDOT will leverage its membership in PowerOptions (www.poweroptions.org), the largest energy-buying consortium in New England for the procurement and contracting of the project. Solect Energy will finance, install, monitor, and maintain the project. MassDOT plans to use the results of the pilot, including information about noise impacts, maintenance, cost, and community perception, to determine the feasibility of PVNB applications elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
MassDOT vetted about two dozen potential sites for the PVNB pilot with Ko-Solar’s propriety selection process, ultimately choosing the Lexington location. The selection of noise barrier, which is on the north side of the highway, is 3,000 feet (~915 m – double the size of Empire States building or three times of the Prudential building in Boston) long, 20 (~6 m) feet tall, and is constructed of reinforced concrete. The retrofit PV system capacity is expected to be 637.5 kW DC, and 802,000 kWh will be generated annually. This represents the equivalent of supplying 120 homes per year with electricity and will avoid roughly 1.4MM tons of CO2 emissions.
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