The lower 48 states have over 52,000 acres of empty roadside land at interstate exits suitable for solar energy development. Placing solar panels at these exits could generate up to 36 tera-watt hours (TWh) a year - that's enough to power 12 million passenger EVs. The value of this energy generated by roadside solar is an estimated $4 billion per year.
In 2018, 28% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation - more than any other sector in the American economy. Fatalities on U.S. interstates and highways in 2017 topped 37,000. Highways are one of the most environmentally damaging and dangerous infrastructure systems in the world. That’s why we’ve started a movement to build net-zero highways, starting with The Ray Highway. Here's how we're improving the safety, ecology and beauty of highways on our 18-mile stretch of I-85:
Zero Deaths. Zero Waste. Zero Carbon. Zero Impact. It’s an ambitious goal, but by harnessing The Ray as a living lab for innovative ideas and technologies, we’ve set a new standard for roadways across the globe.
We’re implementing new ideas and technologies to create a regenerative mobility ecosystem on The Ray Highway, and more than one dozen projects are already built, making change and inspiring others! Check out our Technology Showcase to learn about our solar-powered EV charging, tire safety check station, autonomous and connected vehicle infrastructure, solar highways, and our exciting, holistic vision.
The Ray is constantly evolving our expectations for a highway. In this ever-changing environment, there's a good chance you might have a question. Here you can see questions we've answered and pose your own. We look forward to hearing what you want to know more about - let's talk!
Executive Director, Ray C. Anderson Foundation
As long as internal combustion engines still dominate the road, growing crops in the right-of-way is impossible because of the chemicals and pollutants that make their way into the denigrated soil of the right-of-way. However, we see this as an opportunity. Choices are constantly being made about whether land should be used for food or energy production. Because the right-of-way is incompatible with food production, we have an opportunity to relieve some of the pressure for more energy production on food-compatible land and move it to the right-of-way. Additionally, other non-food crops can be grown in the right-of-way. On The Ray we have a perennial grain pilot. This grain will produce fibers that can be used in the production of highly disposable goods like diapers, napkins, and paper towers.
CEO at Groundswell
The end of 2018 marks the closing out of a five year pilot testing phase for Wattway. After that, they plan to go public with four commercial lines with will provide a diverse range of products from solar roads, like the one on The Ray, or some better suited for urban environments. But before you start a discussion with Wattway about your project, there are a few questions you can ask your team right now to get ahead of the game. What area do you have available for Wattway - is it a sidewalk, bike path, or road? Is it shaded or uncovered? Where will the power go (to a electric bike or car charging station, lights, or a larger interconnection into the grid)? Who owns the space? Who manages the area? The Ray has Georgia Department of Transportation permitting available as a model for anyone who wants to replicate our work. And if you still have questions, please feel free to reach out to us individually! www.wattwaybycolas.com/en/
Government Affairs Special Project Manager - Road To Zero at National Safety Council
The first thing to understand is that all along the right-of-way, decisions have to be made about the ground cover. Dirt and gravel are unsightly and lead to erosion issues, so departments of transportation look to vegetation. This is why you usually see turf grass lining the road. However, turf grass has a shallow, fragile root structure that makes it difficult to grow, and it requires extensive, regular mowing. We think there are better options and one that we particularly like is the pollinator habitat. Native pollinator meadows use native plants that are drought resistant and optimized for the local climate. They have deep root structures that prevent erosion and protect our water systems from roadside pollution. Pollinator habitats (obviously) provide a home for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that are critical to the success of our agricultural communities. By choosing pollinator meadows as the ground cover management strategy the right-of-way, we can secure acres of land for these important species for decades. And did we mention that they’re beautiful and can make a road trip or long commute just a little bit better than it would be otherwise?