(Source: Live Science)

The I205, I5 interchange handles much of Oregon's traffic and requires a hefty electrical bill to stay lit, with 400,000 kilowatt hours used yearly. A new solar installation will now provide much of this power.  (Source:
Oregon continues west coast greening by showing how solar power will one day help us navigate the roads

Things are looking green on the west coast.  Californian utilities are leading the way with strong investment and interest in solar, wind, and nuclear power.  California even boasts the "nation's greenest airport".  Meanwhile Californian citizens are seeing green in the form of a big grant program, which will subsidize solar panel installation for homes and put money back in consumers' pockets.

Now Oregon is looking to pitch in and do its part to gain a bit of solar power leadership.  Oregon has broken ground on the nation's first solar powered highway.  The new project marks a collaboration between Portland General Electric (PGE), US Bank, and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).  All materials for the project will be designed and produced in state.

Governor Ted Kulongoski helped break the news, stating, "Before the year is over, this ground will hold the nation’s first Solar Highway project, and Oregon will make history using the power of the sun to light this interchange.  More importantly, this project will represent a new era for energy in Oregon. It will represent a step forward toward our vision of an energy independent Oregon--and it will represent the endless opportunities before us to chart this course of clean, reliable and renewable energy for our state."

The governor and ODOT revealed the project last week.  It will provide lighting at night at the interchange of two large highways in Oregon -- the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 interchange in Tualatin.

The modest project is expected to be of demonstrative nature.  It will represent how solar power can be used to accommodate growing power needs on our nation's highways and how such efforts can provide a boost to the local economy.  The solar panels for the project will come from SolarWorld AG of Hillsboro, OR, while the inverter will be supplied by PV Powered, Inc. of Bend, OR.

The new installation will be pure photovoltaic solar and will provide 104-kilowatts of capacity.  It will cover 8,000 square feet and will cover an area as long as 2 football fields.  Its yearly kilowatt production will be around 112,000 kilowatt hours, almost 28 percent of the 400,000 kilowatt hours used yearly to light the exchange.

The project will cost the state and utility approximately $1.3M USD and should be completed and online by the end of the year.  PGE already provides the electricity for the interchange, so it will provide the new solar power under a net metering arrangement.  The panels will pump energy onto the PGE grid by day, and at night PGE will return an equivalent amount of power to the interchange.

Design, construction, and installation of the project will be completed by SolarWay.  Solarway is a engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) consortium consisting of four Oregon firms:  Aadland Evans Constructors, Inc., of Portland as the general contractor; Moyano Leadership Group, Inc., of Salem as the project manager and design leader; Advanced Energy Systems of Eugene as the solar power specialty designer and installer, and Good Company of Eugene as the community and sustainability specialist.

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