Print 104 comment(s) - last by phxfreddy.. on Aug 20 at 9:45 PM

  (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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Not impressed
By Lord Zado on 8/18/2008 3:44:29 PM , Rating: 3
So they need to use up 2 football field's worth of land just to get 28% of the power needed to light an interchange? Seems like a giant waste of space and money.

RE: Not impressed
By JKflipflop98 on 8/18/2008 3:53:31 PM , Rating: 5
Jesus Christ man, you're opening yourself up to the classic eco-terrorist shame game right from post 1. I live in Oregon, and if you don't follow the hippie masses in recycling every shred of your carbon footprint, they'll carbomb your SUV.

You've been warned.

RE: Not impressed
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 5:27:53 PM , Rating: 4
Those cloudy skies look real friendly to solar power as well.....and have to wonder how friendly it'll be to extremely cold temps and ice/snow considering how far north it is*BOOM!*


RE: Not impressed
By Solandri on 8/18/2008 7:44:55 PM , Rating: 5
Commercial electricity in Oregon costs 7.34 cents per kWh.

If you assume the state pays that rate (i.e. doesn't get some "large customer" discount), then a 112,000 kWh works out to $8220.80 saved per year. At an installation cost of $1.3 million, this will pay for itself in just over 158 years. Not factoring in maintenance or repair/replacement.

Wouldn't it make more sense just to give the $1.3 million as a research grant?

RE: Not impressed
By FaceMaster on 8/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not impressed
By Solandri on 8/18/2008 9:33:17 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not questioning the move to renewables, I'm questioning the effectiveness of this particular move. I think the $1.3 million would be much better spent on a research grant into solar PV technology. You'd get a lot more renewables technology bang for the buck that way.

RE: Not impressed
By JarredWalton on 8/18/2008 11:07:00 PM , Rating: 2
Something isn't right with the figures in the article. It says that the field produces 104 kW of power, but that the whole grid will only generate 112,000 kWh per year. If we assume eight hours of usability per day, 104 kW would still generate 303,680 kWh per year. Anyway, as with most things relating to being "green", this looks more political than something that truly helps.

RE: Not impressed
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 12:07:27 AM , Rating: 2
Hmm, let's see. 8000 sq ft = 743 sq meters. 104 kW / 743 m^2 = 140 W/m^2, which is about the peak production capacity for 15% efficient PV. So most likely the 104 kW is peak production capacity under bright sunlight. They probably factored in cloudiness to get from 303,680 kWh/yr theoretical peak to 112,000 kWh/yr.

RE: Not impressed
By daftrok on 8/19/2008 5:56:25 AM , Rating: 5
It would have been better just to change the street lights to LED bulbs. That would cut down well over 70% of the power used on that freeway assuming they are using incandescent light bulbs.

RE: Not impressed
By Murloc on 8/19/2008 7:18:28 AM , Rating: 2
uhm that's true...

RE: Not impressed
By retepallen on 8/19/2008 9:10:06 AM , Rating: 2
Couldn't they just do that too?

RE: Not impressed
By chaos386 on 8/19/2008 2:35:03 PM , Rating: 1
Aren't most street lamps sodium-vapor, and thus already more efficient than any LED?

RE: Not impressed
By leexgx on 8/19/2008 4:39:16 PM , Rating: 1
you kiding ?

RE: Not impressed
By daftrok on 8/19/2008 5:43:07 PM , Rating: 4
I did a bit more research on sodium vapors and discovered that despite the fact that it can output more lumens per watt, there are some major drawbacks:
1) Uses hazardous materials (traces of mercury)
2) Light is shot out EVERYWHERE and can even reflect off clouds illuminating the city.
3) Has a 20,000 hour life span, about 1/3 to 1/2 the lifespan of LEDs

LED lights are directional, meaning you don't need a 180W bulb to light up the street, and in turn will not light up the surrounding neighborhoods. This is the main reason why many suburb areas are against these lights because they light up EVERYTHING. So in other words, for street light purposes, LED's would be more efficient.

RE: Not impressed
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 11:23:02 PM , Rating: 3
Apparently its true that intelligence doesn't run in ecoidiots. Spending a bunch of money to not even achieve the goal of powering a highway interchange is pretty retarded. I have no problem with clean power. I do have a problem with clean power that doesn't meet the demand. Nuclear is the only kind that can and do it reliably.

This is a smug campaign. Nothing more. They could care less about "green" energy. They'd have been better off improving the roads with that $1.3 million. What's really sad is it won't even provide 25% of the interchange's power, 50% of the time.

RE: Not impressed
By StevoLincolnite on 8/19/2008 1:58:45 AM , Rating: 5
The thing is, someone has to go "First" before something like this gets rolled out all over the world.

The Australian Government has made a move for most public facilities like toilets to Solar Power, seems to have done well so far, probably saved a bunch on the electricity bills they have.

But even if these Solar Panels only provided 5% of the highway needs, there are allot of highways in the world, and that 5% would lead into a significantly huge amount of power generation, which in turn means less carbon emissions. (If you don't factor in the emissions and energy requirements to build these things).

As for clean energy, some places could probably benefit allot from nuclear, but others it probably isn't an option, for instance you do not want to run a Nuclear Power Plant off a major drinking water supply with no alternatives, because if a large drought comes along it could potentially lead to disaster, some places like 3rd world counties would probably benefit more from Wind and Solar Power, as they don't have as large amount of demand for energy as the 2nd and 1st world countries, and it has the added benefit of minimal on-going costs.

RE: Not impressed
By FITCamaro on 8/19/2008 5:55:39 AM , Rating: 2
Newer plant designs don't need access to a lake or river to operate. They can operate in a closed loop. Or you can do what the Palo Verde facility has done and use treated sewage to cool the plant.

If solar can meet the demand for a "toilet" as you call it, fine. But the fact remains that 50% of the time or more, it won't because either the sun won't be up or it'll be too cloudy to meet demand. Unless you build giant batteries to store energy for every structure. And not only is that insanely expensive, they still only last so long. So you still need to generate enough energy other ways to power everything.

RE: Not impressed
By StevoLincolnite on 8/19/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not impressed
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 12:10:34 PM , Rating: 4
> "I honestly don't see how it's a bad thing either way"

The problem is that all such ideas for storing energy both add drastically to the cost and also reduce efficiency (through conversion losses). A solar plant that can produce power for $0.25/kW-h during the day can triple its costs for providing power at night...and that can be ten times or more the cost of conventional power.

RE: Not impressed
By roastmules on 8/19/2008 12:27:08 PM , Rating: 3
Solar only provides energy when there is sun. It is not a misconception.

Storing the energy for later is not the same thing as generating it. For the power grid, energy is energy, regardless of time of day. For non-grid connected solar, an energy storage device is necessary; for grid-connected, it is a waste of money (other than for BC/DR purposes).

And, the $1.3 million is really just a workfare project - all of the parts come from within the state.

RE: Not impressed
By StevoLincolnite on 8/20/2008 2:54:44 AM , Rating: 2
Solar only provides energy when there is sun. It is not a misconception.

It is, where would you be able to get Solar Energy 24/7 without any "blackouts"? In space, Just imagine huge Solar Farms in space that then "Beam" the energy back down to earth.

RE: Not impressed
By roastmules on 8/20/2008 4:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well, that's a completely different category. See the report from DARPA on this. They want to build it...
If you haven't seen it,

RE: Not impressed
By piroroadkill on 8/19/2008 10:31:57 AM , Rating: 3
Or rather they couldn't care less

RE: Not impressed
By Samus on 8/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: Not impressed
By wilkinb on 8/19/2008 12:23:06 AM , Rating: 2
See the thing in unless you have an economy that correctly factors in the cost to the environment then doing a pure cost vs. savings doesn't make sense.

for example if you think carbon output is an important factor then what was the carbon cost to make the system vs. the carbon output avoided (assuming fossil fuel generate power).

If its nuclear, well then factor in the real cost of storing the by products and the fact it also isn't an unlimited resource.

No idea if this project makes any sense, but simply saying it cost x and saved y doesn’t tell you if it was a good project for the environment. Most of your economies dont reflect the environmental impact at the moment.

But I guess it is ironic that its promoting car use :)

RE: Not impressed
By StevoLincolnite on 8/19/2008 8:10:41 AM , Rating: 2
If its nuclear, well then factor in the real cost of storing the by products and the fact it also isn't an unlimited resource.

Well to be honest, Solar Power is not an Unlimited resource either, eventually our sun will burn out.
And there is only a limited amount of stars that we can see.

Mind you Solar is on a much larger scale than nuclear.

Perhaps one day we will be mining the Asteroid belt for Uranium, or perhaps Naquadah.

RE: Not impressed
By an0dize on 8/19/2008 8:43:06 AM , Rating: 3
Perhaps one day we will be mining the Asteroid belt for Uranium, or perhaps Naquadah.

Don't you mean Crokite and Bistot?

RE: Not impressed
By s12033722 on 8/20/2008 11:37:58 AM , Rating: 2
Veldspar is cheaper and easier.

RE: Not impressed
By nah on 8/19/2008 10:11:04 AM , Rating: 2
commercial electricity in Oregon costs 7.34 cents per kWh.

That's true--but the average price for electricity will steadily go up--in the 25-30 year cycle of the plant, you would have to calculate prices in the region of 14-15 cents per KWh (7.3 now--27/30 cents by 2038) . That comes to USD 504,000 saved over the 30 year life-cycle of the plant--of course you have to factor in a 1-2 % BOL cost per year for the plant as well. The plants cost of operation if you tack in 60 % for maintenance over the 30 year span would be around 2,080,000 USD (in 2008 dollars) and the plant would produce around 3360000 KWhr over the 30 year life-span leading to horrendous figures of 61 cents per KWhr--not exactly an idea in the best interests of the public

RE: Not impressed
By masher2 on 8/19/2008 12:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
> "but the average price for electricity will steadily go up--in the 25-30 year cycle of the plant"

Over the past 50 years, the price of electricity has consistency risen much slower than inflation. That may not be true over the next 50 years (especially if environmentalists get their way) but it is a factor to consider.

RE: Not impressed
By OoklaTheMok on 8/19/2008 8:37:10 PM , Rating: 1
Oh yes, blame the wacko environmentalists...

Alert! Alert! Environmentally friendly power is going to rob you of all your money and take your first born.

Honestly, your arguments are tired and stale.

All new technologies have initial upfront costs to cover and then at which point the economies of scale reduces the price somewhere between significantly and drastically.

But let’s consider for a moment that you are right, which you are not, but let’s just pretend you are. Let's factor the true cost of producing and consuming energy as we do today.

Since I'm in the US, let just pose the scope of the debate in that context.

How much does the US spend per year on asthma as a factor of pollution?

How much does the US spend per year on other health related ailments related to pollution?

How much does the US spend per year cleaning up oil spills?

How much does the US spend per year on Super Fund sites? And for those of you outside the US, a Super Fund site is a massively polluted area that won't be decontaminated by the original contaminator.

How much does the US spend per year on cleaning polluted lakes, streams, etc?

I would say that since, in the US, taxpayers end up footing the bill to clean up just about all effects of pollution, this could amount to an in kind subsidy on current energy production.

If we factor in these true expenses, then our true cost for energy is higher than what our power and gas bills say they are.

Therefore if we extrapolate our current usage and production, I believe we can intelligently establish that if we don't move towards clean energy production, we can expect to pay more and more for cleaning up and mitigating the damages we are currently causing to people and the environment through our continued use of conventional energy production.

Whereas, if we move to cleaner energy sources, yes we will have higher initial upfront costs, but those are to be expected, and as well we can expect the costs to significantly decline as adoption spreads. And by doing so, the secondary indirect expenses of energy production will also decrease whereby further offsetting the cost of energy production and consumption.

If you still don't get the whole upfront costs bit, just remember how much your first computer cost, and compare that to how much a computer costs now. That is how it is when new technology comes to market. There is a price premium. We didn't see the entire population saying that they would avoid computers until the price was "right". People made the bold move of investing in the future, and by doing so, they helped form the foundation of something much greater than the computer alone. Computers and related technology dropped in price drastically over time and have lead to further advancements in technology.

Someone has to do it, and sometimes that takes courage and foresight.

RE: Not impressed
By nah on 8/20/2008 2:13:42 AM , Rating: 2
Over the past 50 years, the price of electricity has consistency risen much slower than inflation. That may not be true over the next 50 years (especially if environmentalists get their way) but it is a factor to consider.

Actually I was talking about the nominal prices--from 1960 prices have risen from 2.4 cents to 9.67 cents by 2007--roughly a 400 % increase. In real terms the prices have actually fallen in constant 2000 USD from 11.4 to 8.08 cents.

RE: Not impressed
By bpurkapi on 8/18/2008 9:41:15 PM , Rating: 2
I live in Portland. Lived here my whole life. This is a waste of money, but its incremental, a trial of sorts. Mostly glad to see PGE and US Bank involved, rather than just ODOT, good public/private investment possibilities in the future. I agree that solar power is a bit problematic here. We have Grey skies 9 months out of the year. Our climate is not that cold, pretty moderate winter about 40 - 50 degrees avg. Also it snows only in the higher elevations which is about 10% of the metro area, and this area almost never sees snow. Instead they should have chosen wind power. In most Interstate highway systems I think we should have wind turbines in the middle/divider strip of the freeway especially in rural areas.

RE: Not impressed
By Anonymous Freak on 8/19/2008 1:43:51 AM , Rating: 3
Latitude does not determine snowfall.

Portland it at roughly the same Latitude as New York, yet receives on average less than one foot of snow total all year; and usually has snow on the ground for less than two weeks total. It is extremely rare to drop below 32 °F for more than a day at a time; and is almost unheard of to drop below 0 °F. (Note: Eastern Oregon is wildly different.)

Although, yeah, the clouds are a bit of a damper for solar. (Pun intended.) Even with the clouds, it is possible to get solar power. Just not nearly as much as on sunny days. (And contrary to common perception, Oregon is quite sunny during the Summer. It's from October to May that we get a nonstop light rain. :-p)

RE: Not impressed
By Cygni on 8/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not impressed
By kattanna on 8/18/2008 3:59:45 PM , Rating: 2
nor am i.

also its a point blank lie that this is powering the lights of the interchange at night when the lights are actually on.

no.. this power is going into the grid, and then as it gets dark the lights come on and take power out of the grid which is then at that time of the day/night being feed by other sources.

RE: Not impressed
By The Irish Patient on 8/18/2008 4:03:33 PM , Rating: 4
Agreed. They don't really even get 28% of the energy needed to light this interchange. The concept seems to be that sending power into the grid during the 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. period of peak insolation is a form of "deposit," allowing the interchange to be powered from the grid at night as a form of "withdrawal."

This concept is flawed because it doesn't benefit the public at large that paid for the project. Unbuffered solar doesn't do anything to reduce loads during the 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. timeframe of peak demand, meaning that the utilities still have to build out the power plants and transmission lines to support peak power without any help from solar.

As an example, the link here provides a graph of the 24 hour loads in the Connecticut river valley. Don't worry about the scale; just compare the shape of the curve to the time of day.

Also, this project had better be in an area with low vandalism. A 13 foot by 600 foot surface of shiny new solar cells would be a magnet for spray paint in southern New England.

RE: Not impressed
By 306maxi on 8/18/2008 5:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
I know it's not the solution for all places (especially flatter places) but Electric Mountain in North Wales is a great way to store electricity. Basically at non-peak times electricity is used to pump water into the holding lake at the top of the mountain and when electricity is needed at peak times it's available almost instantly. Potential energy is far better than storing energy in batteries.

RE: Not impressed
By roastmules on 8/19/2008 3:47:09 PM , Rating: 2
This concept is flawed because it doesn't benefit the public at large that paid for the project. Unbuffered solar doesn't do anything to reduce loads during the 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. timeframe of peak demand, meaning that the utilities still have to build out the power plants and transmission lines to support peak power without any help from solar.

This is mostly true for most of the country, however, in the pacific NW, much of the electricity comes from hydro. With hydro, they can change the water flow to match demand. Lower demand part of the day is good, as they can build up water supplies for heavier demand times. I read that for some hydro dams, the water level is getting almost too low to give power output.

Also, they can measure the peak hours of demand for an area and angle (if fixed) the panels to generate more power during that time; or they can have the panels move.
If peak demand is 3pm, and the sun's angle is 30º, then angle the panels at about the same...

Also, the link you provided for today, shows that the demand curve prediction peaks from 11am-6pm, with the max about 2pm...

This curve makes me like solar power more, as the highest demand is daytime. I think that Stirling or other designs may be better...

RE: Not impressed
By The Irish Patient on 8/20/2008 11:17:38 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for your reply. Your point concerning water supply limited hydroelectric plants is well taken.

I'm also interested to find that you went to my link on 8/19 and found a max demand at 2 p.m. I have been to this web site on many occasions, although not yesterday, and have never seen this.

Today, 8/20, peak demand is predicted for 5:00 p.m., with heavy demand continuing to 9:00 p.m. Today's demand curve is typical for a cool summer day with no need for air conditioning in the evening. The curve becomes much more sinusoidal on hot summer days, with a peak demand that is about 15-20 percent higher than today's and shifted further into the evening.

RE: Not impressed
By roastmules on 8/20/2008 4:57:27 PM , Rating: 2
Today, 8/20, it is more like what you stated earlier, with more of a 4pm peak, which is more of what I would have thought... Regardless, my point was that the solar panels can be angled.

RE: Not impressed
By joex444 on 8/18/2008 4:07:09 PM , Rating: 3
I actually just looked up a map for the interchage. The onramps span about 15 football fields, in length alone. The actual area would be larger.

RE: Not impressed
By chmilz on 8/18/2008 4:07:53 PM , Rating: 5
$1.3 million would buy approx 8700 electric lawn mowers which could be distributed to home-owners via lottery to replace dirty combustion engine mowers which would reduce carbon emissions, beautify yards, save two football fields worth of natural landscape from destruction, and at the end of the day probably have a more positive effect on the environment than this solar idea.

I'm sure there's even better uses for the money, but my neighbor is using his noisy-as-hell junk mower right now and it's all I can think about.

RE: Not impressed
By Oregonian2 on 8/18/2008 7:13:48 PM , Rating: 2
No, won't work. Our governor has his own agenda, no matter how much it costs the residents of this state (and as bad as it'll hurt in the short term, it may be good long term I hate to say). Mostly he wants us to be "little California" -- perhaps to counter a previous governor who got into a bit of trouble (at least outside the state) for his "Welcome to Oregon on your visit... but don't stay" (paraphrased slightly) road welcome signs. :-)

This solar-on-the-highway "trick" as I recall from local paper articles is one that's popular in Europe, so it's basically lifting the idea from there and I thought was supposed to used otherwise normally unused interstate right-of-way, but maybe not.

Although not mentioned above, this was announced just after we had a court decision that allows local/state governments to "collect" on federal subsidies by using an third party intermediary, else that cost-reducing federal subsidy wouldn't be available to projects such as this.

As to grass, we don't want to mess with that. We're one of the leading producers of grass seed.

RE: Not impressed
By Parhel on 8/18/2008 5:54:54 PM , Rating: 2
So they need to use up 2 football field's worth of land just to get 28% of the power needed to light an interchange? Seems like a giant waste of space and money.

I don't think so . . . the article said:

It will cover 8,000 square feet and will cover an area as long as 2 football fields.

If two football fields are about 720' long, then at 8000 sq. ft., this thing would only be about 11' wide, or it isn't contiguous.

By masher2 on 8/18/2008 4:02:28 PM , Rating: 5
...and put money back in consumers' pockets.
After first taking it from their pockets, in the form of higher taxes used to fund these initiatives.

RE: Correction
By joex444 on 8/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Correction
By masher2 on 8/18/2008 4:18:36 PM , Rating: 3
There are no subsidies for oil. Tax credits are a quite different beast.

As for the net benefit -- sure, considering the only tax credits given oil companies are to compel them to take actions that actually benefit the US, such as drilling in nonoptimal domestic areas to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Even after tax credits, oil companies are one of the federal government largest source of tax revenues, contributing more last year than the bottom 75% of all taxpayers combined.

If acts like this "solar highway" actually benefited us, I'd have no problem with it. But the fact is it's an entirely symbolic gesture, with no real return for the rather sizeable investment.

RE: Correction
By ebakke on 8/18/2008 4:21:32 PM , Rating: 2
The return comes as a warm fuzzy feeling, obviously.

RE: Correction
By blaster5k on 8/18/2008 4:39:51 PM , Rating: 2
People let their emotions get the best of them.

RE: Correction
By sweetsauce on 8/18/2008 4:57:11 PM , Rating: 3
Considering the amount of profit they generate, they better damn well be paying all those taxes.

RE: Correction
By Noliving on 8/18/2008 5:19:30 PM , Rating: 1
consider this sweetsauce, the Gov. makes nearly 3 times in taxes from oil what the largest oil company makes in the US in profit. If anything the windfall profit tax should be put on congress instead of the oil companies.

RE: Correction
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 5:29:29 PM , Rating: 2
That's per company (and thus in total).

RE: Correction
By blaster5k on 8/18/2008 5:28:57 PM , Rating: 3
You can't really tax a company. Taxing a company actually taxes the people who purchase from the company, because their prices will go up correspondingly. Up to around 30% of the price you pay for any given product goes to taxes.

RE: Correction
By danrien on 8/18/2008 6:59:43 PM , Rating: 3
and how much more do the oil companies make than the bottom 75% of all taxpayers combined? if a company makes a lot of money, such as exxon$ ($40b in revenues this year), which has posted record profits again this year, then is it unfair or unjust that they are paying more taxes than people who make $30k-$40k a year? to put it into perspective, it would take 10 million people making $40k a year to meet the profits of Exxon, and this is just one of the oil companies.

Here's my favorite example of the unfair taxing of billionaires, straight from Warren Buffet's mouth:

The Oracle of Omaha issued a challenge to members of The Forbes 400 in October; said he would donate $1 million to charity if the collective group of richest Americans would admit they pay less taxes, as a percentage of income, than their secretaries.


RE: Correction
By straycat74 on 8/18/2008 7:29:17 PM , Rating: 2
A. How much are their Administrative Assistants paid?
B. If they don't admit it, does it make it true or false?
C. When it comes to incomes, deductions and investments, there are way too many variables for a yes-no answer to an obviously loaded question.

RE: Correction
By Solandri on 8/18/2008 9:31:29 PM , Rating: 5
and how much more do the oil companies make than the bottom 75% of all taxpayers combined? if a company makes a lot of money, such as exxon$ ($40b in revenues this year), which has posted record profits again this year, then is it unfair or unjust that they are paying more taxes than people who make $30k-$40k a year?

That doesn't work out quite the way you think it will. The original stat (that oil companies paid more taxes than the bottom 75% of all taxpayers) is kind of a trick stat. The bottom 50% of taxpayers only paid 3.3% of all income taxes. The 50%-75% bracket only paid 11.84%. So the bottom 75% paid just 15.14% total of all income taxes. (Yes, it's true, the top 25% of taxpayers paid nearly 85% of all income taxes. The top 5% paid 57%. Remember that next time you hear a debate on "tax cuts for the wealthy" - that's the only place you can cut taxes because they're the only people paying a significant amount of taxes.)

If you then look at the number of returns and total reported incomes:

Play with the spreadsheet a bit and you'll find the 75% point falls at just under $75,000/yr income. Sum up the taxable incomes for everyone under $75,000/yr and you get a total of $1.57 trillion.

According to an anti-oil site, annual revenue for the oil industry was right around $1.5 trillion.

So to answer your question, the oil industry made about as much money and paid about as much in taxes as the bottom 75% of all taxpayers. But like I said, the "bottom 75% of taxpayers" figure is kind of a trick stat.

RE: Correction
By Solandri on 8/18/2008 10:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
I guess in fairness I should mention that I only used taxable income for the individual income figures. If you did that for the oil companies, their taxable income would be much, much less than $1.5 trillion. Companies are only taxed on revenue minus expenses.

Likewise, if you used taxable + non-taxable income for individuals, their total would come out to more than $1.57 trillion. I just presented the numbers which worked most against the oil companies to preclude anyone coming up with a "But...!" argument.

RE: Correction
By masher2 on 8/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Correction
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 12:21:24 AM , Rating: 2
It's tricky because most people assume the bottom 75% of taxpayers pay a lot of taxes. They don't.

I admit it's clever coming up with a way to use this misconception against the political group which likes to propagate it (the "no tax cuts for the wealthy" crowd). But I just prefer being up-front and as clear as possible about any stats.

RE: Correction
By 4play on 8/19/2008 12:48:19 AM , Rating: 2
I know this has nothing to do with anything...but,

Why do people cry about "taxpayers money" going to waste via government spending, when they are clearly an insignificant part of the picture? Claiming taxpayer's money is going to waste is misleading as it is less than half the picture. They should instead say that it's a waste of corporate taxes! Not that that would gather any emotions...

You know what I'm talking about Mr. "After first taking it from their pockets, in the form of higher taxes used to fund these initiatives. "

Got to love the spins!

RE: Correction
By Solandri on 8/19/2008 2:21:24 AM , Rating: 3
People get upset about tax money (from any source) going to waste because the government doesn't earn it, it simply takes it. Most financial transactions involve both sides feeling they got value for the trade. If you don't feel a transaction represents a good value to you, you simply don't have to make the transaction.

But with taxes you don't have a choice. The government just takes it. So if you feel the government is wasting tax revenue thus giving you poor value for your money, the only thing you can do about it is complain.

RE: Correction
By 4play on 8/19/2008 10:33:09 AM , Rating: 2
I understand that, but people do get something worthwhile in exchange. They get a military, police force, education system etc. But when the government spends (or wastes) something like 1.3 million on a solar installation then people bring out the "taxpayer money" card, which is being deceptive as it makes people feel that it's their money, when in fact they probably contribute less than a quarter (25c) to it.

RE: Correction
By ebakke on 8/18/2008 4:19:47 PM , Rating: 2
No, and both should be removed. Right along with ethanol, wind, and nearly every other subsidy.

Did I miss something?
By Souka on 8/18/2008 4:10:02 PM , Rating: 3
What is the cost savings over the life of the project?

How does the projects build, maintainence, teardown, and power produced compare to the current system?

I highly suspect the cost to Oregon tax payers will be in millions over the life of the project (20yrs?).


RE: Did I miss something?
By webdawg77 on 8/18/2008 4:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
The governor and ODOT revealed the project last week.

It's all about politics. They're getting to spread good news! So when the next election rolls around, they can put another feather in their caps.

RE: Did I miss something?
By ebakke on 8/18/2008 4:22:59 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe with enough feathers, they can just fly away and leave us with someone willing to actually help the people.

RE: Did I miss something?
By webdawg77 on 8/18/2008 4:24:34 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Did I miss something?
By mmatis on 8/18/2008 4:45:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, right! Like that will ever happen. There are plenty of other Hunters they want to pluck.

RE: Did I miss something?
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 5:30:42 PM , Rating: 2
All in favor of said feathers having their tips dipped in Cobra venom?

RE: Did I miss something?
By Oregonian2 on 8/18/2008 7:37:38 PM , Rating: 2
It's all about politics. They're getting to spread good news! So when the next election rolls around, they can put another feather in their caps.

Well, they can put the feather somewhere.... maybe not there.

The cost of natural gas (primary house heating fuel) and electricity have been skyrocketting here in Oregon. The Governor is willfully trying to drive it up even quicker than it would otherwise to gain his official Californication hat. Trying to drive up our gasoline prices too by voluntarily following California spendy-gas rules that were crafted for much denser population of autos than we have here. Plus the Federal government doesn't want to allow most of the local citizens to enjoy the advantage of power from dams blocking up their rivers.

Solar ?
By kslavik on 8/18/2008 4:21:16 PM , Rating: 3
It seems ironic that they have decided to use solar power in the area where it is cloudy almost all the time. At the same time I84 is going along Hood River - a natural wind tunnel - the area of the United States with most consistent winds in the country.

Why are they doing it along the freeway? Is not it easier to maintain the panels and protect them from theft and vandalism if they are located in one spot instead? Would this project create another traffic nightmare due to the construction along the highway.

And finally why is this project funded by public. This project is nothing more than publicity grabber for the state government.

RE: Solar ?
By Spuke on 8/18/2008 5:03:56 PM , Rating: 2
Why are they doing it along the freeway?
So people can see that "something" is being done.

RE: Solar ?
By Oregonian2 on 8/18/2008 7:20:55 PM , Rating: 2
Land is already paid for and there's easy highway access.

RE: Solar ?
By Noya on 8/18/2008 8:48:08 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, easier for the meth junkies to steal...

RE: Solar ?
By Doormat on 8/19/2008 11:07:00 AM , Rating: 2
Indeed - Oregon should be investing in wind and not solar. They have ample wind sources. And I say that as a solar advocate. The LCOE for this project has to be above 25c/kWH. Even after the federal ITC, thats still 20.75c/kWh.

RE: Solar ?
By Oregonian2 on 8/19/2008 3:23:13 PM , Rating: 2
Oregon has a lot of wind power and there are a LOT of new wind-farms going up now. It's already to the point that building of wind power is limited by the production capability of the wind power machinery makers.

The Governor already has put into place high thresholds of renewable energy sources that the utilities in the state must meet not that far down the road so even one large electric utility is attempting to build wind farms as fast as they can (and while good spots are available near transmission lines that can deliver the power -- most sites are in north and northeastern Oregon where people are relatively few).

By glaive on 8/18/2008 5:48:43 PM , Rating: 1
Those of you arguing about clouds clearly do not understand solar energy. Is there a drop off? Yes but it is less than you think. Clearly none of you have been sun burned on a cloudy day...

RE: Clouds
By Keeir on 8/18/2008 6:24:37 PM , Rating: 2

I'd say they know what thier talking about. Using pretty much the best collection method (for a single panel installation), the area in the Article will average around 6kWh/m2/day. In comparison, Southern California recieves 8kWh/m2/day.

Of course, that not the real issue with Solar in the Pacific Northwest, check out January (when its the most cloudy)

Ouch... lucky to get 3 kWh/m2/day compared to Souther Californias 6 kWh/m2/day.

RE: Clouds
By Oregonian2 on 8/18/2008 7:25:42 PM , Rating: 2
Here in the Portland metro area, last Thurs~Saturday we had 100+ degree weather, and actually had pretty toasty sunny weather before that (rain today with thunder/lighting coming through which is very rare around here).

But in the mid-winter when days are both short and dark, solar panels may do less well. But at least it's very unlikely to have ice coatings on it like a lot of the country may have. :-)

RE: Clouds
By Diesel Donkey on 8/18/2008 8:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
I got my worst sunburn ever while running in a rain storm.

RE: Clouds
By Solandri on 8/18/2008 9:48:18 PM , Rating: 2
UV rays can pass through certain types of clouds. So you can get sunburned on a cloudy day. However, the bulk of solar radiation is centered around the visible spectrum (green in particular), so that's where most PV work.

(As an aside, far- and mid-infrared will also go through through clouds.)

RE: Clouds
By bodar on 8/18/2008 10:59:40 PM , Rating: 3
Funny, looks like the whole of Oregon is about to get burned at once.

So much money... So little power...
By CyborgTMT on 8/18/2008 6:11:27 PM , Rating: 2
I know some of the Greenpeace crowd will scream over this idea but, what about using the money to build a housing facility for a decommissioned naval reactor? There are around 100 of ships ranging from subs to battleships that are just sitting around because of arms reductions. The reactors range from around 50 MW to over 500 MW depending on the vessel. Drop one of those in and you power the whole highway system not just a fraction of one intersection. It also solves the problem of what to do with the old reactors from the ships.

RE: So much money... So little power...
By FITCamaro on 8/18/2008 6:35:50 PM , Rating: 2
Not a bad idea.

By CyborgTMT on 8/18/2008 7:05:54 PM , Rating: 2
yah it's not like they are just lying around anywhere...,+Washi...

RE: So much money... So little power...
By Saesmere on 8/18/2008 7:10:46 PM , Rating: 4
There were never any battleships made with nuclear reactors, you might be thinking cruisers. Those MW ratings are thermal, the electrical generation is much much less.

By CyborgTMT on 8/18/2008 8:52:54 PM , Rating: 2
Yes and yes....

Official Battleship production ending in the 1940s and Cruisers and Destroyers took their place. My reference was to larger surface ships and used the wrong wording.

As for the MWt, the average info I can find on the reactors is 25 MWe for every 100 MWt give or take some depending on the efficiency of the design model. The S5 series on easily meets that output. So with the smallest of the reactors you are still going to get roughly 12 MWe output. That still dwarfs the ability of the solar plant.

just more pollution
By G13man on 8/18/2008 5:48:24 PM , Rating: 2
of light or doesn't anyone like the stars any more . Don't head lights work? Or are people walking the highway due to high gas prices? The only thing that needs illuminated are the road signs . .
AND it is NOT a solar highway unless you are driving on it or it is propelling you. It is solar energy production along a highway

RE: just more pollution
By Oregonian2 on 8/18/2008 7:28:00 PM , Rating: 2
I dunno. The sun DOES shine directly on the highway (well, in the Summer anyway), doesn't that make it a solar highway? It directly solar heats all the automobiles driving on it too (whether wanted or not)! :-) :-)

huh, what about the schools?
By albundy2 on 8/18/2008 7:31:06 PM , Rating: 2
i think the money would have been better spent on their nearly bankrupt education system...

RE: huh, what about the schools?
By codeThug on 8/19/2008 1:07:04 AM , Rating: 2
Why send that $$$ money down the same hole?

First? No.
By iFX on 8/18/2008 9:45:39 PM , Rating: 2
FL has been doing this for years.

RE: First? No.
By TheSpaniard on 8/19/2008 8:23:13 AM , Rating: 2
Yea but I don't think its at the scale they are talking about in this article.

The solar panels that charge the couple of lights and phones on Alligator alley are small and usually placed on top of whatever they are going to power.

These things are lining the sides of the roads!

Early adopters buy down price for followers
By omgwtf8888 on 8/19/2008 1:49:19 PM , Rating: 2
Of course the cost/benefit of this project is out of balance, the cost/benefit of any early tech is. The first LCD monitors were expensive, however, increased demand resulted in increased supply which drove costs down. So the guy who had the first clunky LCD TV paid a fortune while the masses of schlubs can own one for $200 now. Bottom line is we have to start somewhere. And I would rather pay anything to US companies to make equipment to produce our power that will get us off the foreign stuff. So stop thinking short term. If States like Oregon and California are shouldering the initial investment, congratulate them. In five years when you are powering your house and car from the greatly improved, solar panels on your roof for a few thousand bucks you will rejoice. Go USA!

By phxfreddy on 8/20/2008 9:45:50 PM , Rating: 2
LCD's were not subsidized by governments. No matter how much you think you are doing good by subsidizing you are always causing damage.

Over here you do +3 units of good. Out here where we taxpayers pay for the crap it does -5 units of damage. Thus you end up a net of -2 behind.

This stuff only looks good when you look at it in isolation!

By ianken on 8/19/2008 9:36:43 PM , Rating: 2
I'll try to be a bit more civil than most of the other "god damn hippies, get off my lawn" folks up here:

The reason this is silly is:

1- The return on investment is just not there.
2- Your (Oregon's) tax dollars at work.

We know the PV can be a great power option when applied correct;y (see the article at Extreme Tech about this). But this is not one of them. Thisis political grandstanding for no other reason than to brag about he size of your green-wang.

RE: Hmmmm
By phxfreddy on 8/20/2008 9:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
My green wang goes to 12.

Solar power
By Aethelwolf on 8/20/2008 9:53:02 AM , Rating: 1
Solar isn't going to power Americas energy needs. What solar is really good at is supplementing energy use. Researchers have just found a way to boost solar panels to 40% efficiency. Nanotechnologies can boost efficiencies even further while eliminating the fragility of panel designs. Imagine being able to paint your roof with "solar paint".

If this country doesn't start moving towards being environmentally friendly in the next 10 years, we are doomed. You can't live in your fantasy world any longer. There is evidence to show that the Earth is already experiencing a mass extinction event (yeah, you can pat yourself on the back because we are most likely the cause). There will be 8 Billion people on this earth by 2030. We will need to produce 50% more food on only 11% of suitable land. Your don't have to be fucking Einstein to figure out we are heading for trouble.

But, sure. Sit in your computer chair, drive that SUV, bitch and moan about this and that, continue to stick your head in the sand, ignore those ominous storm clouds heading your way, because everything will be hunky dory, God will provide, your a good person, someone else will make the sacrifices.

The future looks bleak, folks.

God, we are fucked.

RE: Solar power
By phxfreddy on 8/20/2008 9:41:44 PM , Rating: 2
Someone has a liberal arts degree and watched too many disaster flicks.

By Siki on 8/18/2008 11:54:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, solar powered lights, there's a good idea.

By Cullinaire on 8/19/2008 3:57:30 AM , Rating: 2
Sadly, not for the best of things but it could always be worse, eh?

All those people going home after their visit to Fry's now can smile and say, "Hey, this patch of pavement I'm driving over was featured on DT!"

Stupid Slogan
By LatinMessiah on 8/19/2008 1:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
"This isn't a billboard. It's a power plant".

Then get that power plant off that billboard!

How many Watts is it?
By phxfreddy on 8/20/2008 1:46:50 AM , Rating: 2
Liberals / EnvironMENTAL cases stretching the truth again. To call it a power plant is bending the truth severely. It generates 100 kW. That my dear sir is a drop in the bucket.

Liberals always want to "make a difference". But what is the environMENTAL movement?

The environmental movement is where people with no skills in an increasingly global and technical environment are made to feel relevant in spite of their patent irrelevancy.

Want to feel relevant? Want to make a difference? Get a degree in engineering. Get a PhD in Physics.

Want to be more of the same problem? Become an environMENTAL activist and militate for technologies that are marginal at best. You might as well have become a lawyer or a politician. ( Ooos yes that would be like the person who is pushing this solar boondogle ) When you do this you make as much difference as when you go get a tattoo in rebellion. And all that does is prove you are conforming to jerkdom like all the other tattoed preening jerks out there.

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs

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