Solar installation project along I-280 nears completionWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohio’s first solar installation along a highway is nearing completion on Interstate 280 in Toledo.
The $2 million solar research and installation project was developed by a partnership with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), UT, First Solar of Perrysburg, Xunlight Corporation and Advanced Distributed Generation (ADG) of Toledo. The cost of the project includes $500,000 for the research portion and $1.5 million for the solar installation.
“It’s part of the completion of the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway and bridge project that began 10 years ago,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who reported that $1.5 million in federal funds are paying for this first solar installation on a federal highway in Ohio and second one in the U.S.
The solar array is estimated to produce more than 100,000 kilowatt hours annually using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory solar energy simulator. The energy will be used to power the lighting for the approach, bridge and center pylon, according to ODOT.
“We are hopeful this is just the beginning of statewide use of solar energy on Ohio highways. Northwest Ohio is poised to take advantage of alternative energy in the 21st century,” said David Dysard, deputy director of ODOT District 2.
The solar installation could save ODOT $15,000 annually on the cost of lighting the approach, bridge and pylon, assuming a rate of 12 cents per kilowatt hour. ODOT pays approximately $20,000 a year to light the bridge and highway.
The project is expected to be operational by the first of the year, according to ODOT officials and Alan Bowen, project manager for ADG, which is handling the installation of solar arrays provided by First Solar and Xunlight.
First Solar is providing 966 solar panels for a 67-kilowatt system as its part of the project, said Pete Alyanakian, national sales manager for First Solar. The company also provided solar panels for the largest solar installation in North America, located outside Sarnia, Ontario, and for the largest one in Ohio located in Wyandot County.
Xunlight is providing 198 newly developed and produced flexible thin-film silicon solar modules for its part of the system. It is the largest installation of the company’s thin-film solar modules, which are now in production at its plant in Toledo, according to Xunming Deng, CEO of Xunlight.
The thin-film silicon solar modules are being installed on TPO membrane material made by Firestone that is typically used for rooftop installations, Deng said.
The TPO product also helps to prevent erosion and control water runoff.
Xunlight has sales contracts for $70 million of the thin-film silicon solar modules for larger projects in the U.S. and Europe, according to John Buckey, vice president of business development for the firm with 100 employees.
ADG developed new wrapping technologies for mounting the solar panels on two different types of racks. Each rack of modules is assembled at ADG’s facility and installed on the site, according to John Witte, president of ADG, which will maintain the site for one year and collect the research.
A small brick enclosure on the site houses computer equipment that will collect data from the solar arrays for one year. That data will be evaluated to determine the feasibility for future use of solar projects by ODOT on highways.
The study of the data generated at the site will be conducted by the computer science and electrical engineering departments at UT, according to Richard Martinko, director of the UT Transportation Center. The study is scheduled for completion in March 2012.