There is an enormous untapped resource that is managed by all US DOTs that can make a difference in electrical generation and consumption; it is called right of way (ROW). This often unused land area along highway systems can contain several types of alternative energy systems that can be used to generate electrical power for highway interchange lighting, signal lighting, rest areas, and maintenance facilities. Generated power can also be sent to the “grid” as a potential source of additional utility power and revenue. DOTs need to take a proactive sustainable management approach by taking advantage of this ROW as a resource; to reduce reliance of fossil fuel generated electricity that will reduce highway operation and maintenance costs.
There is a significant amount of space within the nations ROWs to accommodate innovative electrical generation. The National Highway System (NHS) contains approximately 163,000 miles of roadway consisting of the Interstate Highway System. There are approximately 5.05 million acres of land within the NHS nationwide and roughly 68 percent, or 3.4 million acres, is unpaved. It is estimated that Colorado contains a total of 110,156 ROW acres with approximately 75,000 acres being unpaved (Federal Highway Administration, Carbon Sequestration Pilot Program, May 2010). The State of Oregon estimates that solar arrays installed on ROW comprising less than 1 percent of the state’s 19,000 lane miles could supply all the of the transportation systems power needs annually by generating 50 million kWh (TR News, March-April 2010).
TerraLogic has teamed with David Evans and Associates and Colorado State University-Pueblo to identify innovative energy generation capabilities within the CDOT ROW to power rest areas, maintenance facilities and intersection lighting and signaling. TerraLogic will be providing the team with sustainable transportation analysis associated with ROW usage, maintenance and technical peer review. The CDOT Alternative Energy Project is similar to an alternative energy approach recently used by the Oregon Department of Transportation that resulted in constructing a solar array of 594 solar panels generating 112,000 kWh per year.
The goals and objective of the ongoing CDOT Alternative Energy Project are: 1) take advantage of the alternative energy resources within Colorado and large amounts of CDOT ROW by identifying energy resources within CDOT management that are high in quantity and quality and will result in reduced operation costs, 2) conceptualize and identify potential energy cost saving measures using alternative energy generation (solar, wind, geothermal, bio-fuel) that will reduce CDOT energy costs (lighting, signaling, building heat, etc.), 3) evaluate the physical and operational potential of using CDOT ROW areas to generate and sell energy to electric utility companies throughout Colorado, and 4) implement cost effective alternative energy sources into CDOT operations state-wide thus saving financial resources and reducing indirect greenhouse gas emissions.
The final report is expected to be delivered to CDOT in January 2011. Stay tuned to the TerraLogic blog for a summary of the results.
It is recognized that many state DOTs are being challenged by low operating budgets that makes it difficult to finance and operate innovative-sustainable projects. It is important that DOTs become aggressive in finding new funding approaches to address future increases in electrical costs that will be driven by EPA and/or congressional carbon regulations. State DOTs need to find the necessary funding and support from their state legislatures or via federal agencies to implement cost effective-short and long term strategies that make sense in meeting the expectations of the public. DOTs must be given the financial resources in order to spend money to save money in the long term.
Next TerraLogic blog- Sustainable transportation design using the NYDOT GreenLITES approach.