March 2017Policy

Interstate Sound Barriers can provide PV Solar to Metrorail

At a time when progress using more renewable energy on the federal level has slowed, there are other options.  Local governments may start planning for the use of interstate highways as a photovoltaic resource.  Many interstate highways have sound barriers running east to west that might be used for photovoltaic (PV) panels.  We need to research this PV resource base and the technical and governmental constraints to realize power from this resource.  We need to move our local governments forward so that they can begin the needed feasibility studies.

In the Washington area we have parts of interstate highways of 495 and 66 that might provide a basis for some PV sources.  Our Metro subway system often intersects with these interstate systems and does have a need for daytime electricity.  Local county governments could potentially partner with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to have Interstate PV resources to supply our subway.  Sending electricity directly to WMATA means that we lessen the need to deal with utilities.  Local activists will need to convince politicians and energy managers to modify WMATA agreements so that contributions to WMATA can be made in either dollars or electricity.  We will also need to get Maryland, Virginia, and District departments of transportation to study and approve highway integration of PV solar.  WMATA and local counties will need smart grids to link the variableness of solar energy into the daily energy use.

There may be constraints and blockages to expanding renewables to local transportation. Â However, it is likely that local citizens will be friendly to deploying clean energy.  Dominion Power, which has blocked renewables in Virginia, may not be involved in WMATA planning and therefore not a necessary block.  The federal government might not block local planning, which may take years to develop a working plan anyway.  Local counties may find that the renewable industry might assist funding for future contracts to supply electricity if long-term contracts can be written.  There is a possible block by the state legislatures, but we will be building to fight that influence anyway.  It would be better to start that sooner than later.

In the near term this project needs to be examined and researched as to its feasibility, cost, and legal constraints.  Local governments and their agencies need to review the factors and relationships involved.  If it is not economical now, it may be by the time it is to be deployed, given the rate of technological change.  We need to lobby our local politicians and government leaders to start the needed research.

Our needed steps:

  1. Alert local activists, politicians, and governments to the interstate PV opportunity.
  2. Get local governments' energy offices to evaluate the resource base and initial constraints.
  3. Get VA, MD, and DC department of transportations to examine the possibility of interstate PV power.
  4. Get WMATA to evaluate the project and the possibility of government payments in electricity as well as dollars.
  5. Once the legal and governments issues are resolved, deployments can be made as funding allows.

One good point about this proposal is that by the time this project is fully analyzed and agreed to, we may have a new Congress or president.  The new solar world will be announced when interstate drivers daily see the new PV panels!

The sun and wind are public resources and will bring in a new era of regionally based power.  By directly tying them into local governments and organizations we can be sure that they serve the public.  This is especially true when private utilities are resisting renewables and the related climate and health issues.  These private utilities are also undermining our democracy by buying our legislators.  We need our governments focused on serving the people.

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