By Thaddeus Rumple
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) is getting into the business of running solar systems. It is putting in photovoltaic arrays at ten sites along state Route 3 and Interstate 90. More sites are still under consideration for three additional arrays.
A goal of installing the solar systems is to have at least six megawatts of new solar capacity. By doing this, the DOT says, it will be able to save taxpayers $15 million over the next twenty years.
After a lengthy procurement process, the DOT decided to use Ameresco, Inc., a large clean energy company with an office in Framingham, Massachusetts. Ameresco will pay the DOT $17.50 per kilowatt for its use of the land, and provide it with the electricity it produces. It will recoup its investment through the state energy credits, federal incentives, and the sale of electricity to the DOT, which it will deliver at a discounted rate.
The electricity at the ten sites under construction, combined with that from three sites being considered, is expected to total about 7.8 million kilowatt hours each year. That is enough to provide power for about 1,300 households and reduce carbon emissions by about 3500 tons.
With the steep decline in the price of solar power it is hardly a surprise that such road-side projects are being built. When we consider the transportation systems in the country, it is clear that solar systems built along highways can contribute an substantial amount of energy to supply the needs of the nation.