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Massachusetts installs solar panels on highway noise barriers

Equipping existing infrastructure with solar modules is not a completely new approach. In Germany, for example, a corresponding obligation for warehouses and industrial companies is being discussed in the current coalition negotiations. In the US state of Massachusetts, on the other hand, the focus is currently on the noise barriers along the highways. A local solar company wants to implement a pilot project there together with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. First of all, a noise protection wall is to be fitted with solar modules over a length of 800 meters. These then remain in the possession of the solar company. The electricity generated in this way is in turn sold to the transport authorities – and should be cheaper than the energy from the socket. All in all, 800 megawatt hours of electricity per year should be generated in this way. This roughly corresponds to the consumption of 100 households. These figures show that if all noise barriers were actually converted accordingly, this could make a significant contribution to the energy transition.

Bild: Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The safety of road traffic must not be impaired

First, however, the pilot project should run for some time and then be evaluated. Because the solar modules cannot simply be pasted vertically onto the walls. Instead, metal structures are first anchored there, which support the modules and ensure that they are aligned at an angle. In this way, the sun’s rays can be captured much more efficiently. At the same time, however, it is a very sensitive place for such an installation. Because it must be ruled out that the safety of road traffic is impaired. This is one of the reasons why the authorities initially only released a comparatively small area for the retrofitting. Now it should be checked in practice whether the solar modules possibly cause reflections that irritate the motorist. In addition, it is checked to what extent the functionality of the noise protection wall is impaired by the retrofitting. This is to prevent the metal structures from causing damage to the walls.

The project is a premiere in the United States

Once all of these questions have been resolved, the partners involved want to take a look at the economic side. So: Was as much electricity really generated as planned? And: Are the costs low enough to be competitively priced? Because the pilot project that has now been installed was still subsidized with state funds. A complete retrofitting of all noise barriers, on the other hand, would have to be largely self-sufficient. Interestingly, the Massachusetts project is the first ever solar panels on noise barriers in the United States. The results of the experiment should therefore also be followed with interest in other states. If the approach proves to be sensible and inexpensive, imitators will soon be found. Other countries have already made further progress: There are already similar projects in Germany and Australia, for example. A comprehensive implementation has not yet been implemented here either.

Via: Electrek

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