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Ask the Ray

How does a solar road work? What is the environmental impact of underinflated tires?
What are bioswales?

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!

  • Can you please address the Wattway “fiasco” in Normandy, France?

    08.05.2020

  • How can we use the technology that The Ray is using to repave our corporate campus? In addition to alternatives to traditional asphalt, we are considering installing solar panels or a rain collection system.

    04.20.2020

  • What percent of your funding goes to overhead and marketing?

    03.17.2020

  • Given that solar panels work most efficiently when pointed directly at the sun, isn't it wasteful to put them flat on the ground?

    01.03.2019

  • I want to know more about how The Ray actually works. Who funds The Ray?

    11.05.2018

  • Solar roadways are an exciting idea. If another city or state wants to launch at Wattway pilot, where can they start?

    06.02.2018

  • What’s the most unique project your currently have on The Ray?

    05.07.2018

  • How do pollinator gardens help a roadway? Please help me understand the connection.

    03.18.2018

  • If you grow crops in the right-of-way, would the chemicals and metals in water running off from the highway threaten them or bio-accumulate in them?

    02.26.2018

  • The Ray has become a model for rethinking transportation. Many of your projects have been consumer oriented. Does The Ray have anything planned for semi-trucks?

    02.06.2018

  • How can a highway educate drivers about the pollution coming out of their vehicle tailpipes?

    01.12.2018

  • How many miles apart do DC fast chargers, like one on The Ray, need to be placed to establish a safe network for EVs like the KIA Soul?

    12.26.2017

"Can you please address the Wattway “fiasco” in Normandy, France?"

Scott Mills
aboutsavingheat.com
08.05.2020

The first Wattway solar road was tested in Normandy in 2016. After two years of the pilot, Wattway received bad publicity for not producing the amount of energy promised and for suffering wear and tear over the years. This press doesn’t deter us because we’ve seen Wattway’s successes on The Ray Highway firsthand. Here at The Ray, we are always looking for innovative ways to make our highways smarter, safer, and more sustainable. We don’t expect technologies to exceed expectations the first time; innovation is an iterative process that takes time.

We feel that Wattway has been a success here at The Ray. In its first year, 50 square meters of solar panels created 8,420.74 kWh of energy, enough energy to power an electric automobile for roughly 35,000 miles. Since the first year, Wattway has utilized data from it’s experience in Georgia to create successive iterations of the original solar road. The upgrade in December 2019 improved the electrical capacity of the solar panels by 21% reaching 144 watt peak / m². But don’t just take our word for it. We will be launching a dashboard that tracks the data of all of our technologies on The Ray. We have a lot of exciting data to share, and we always want to be transparent about the performance of our technologies. To keep up with what’s new on The Ray follow us on your favorite social media channel, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn!

"We are repaving our corporate campus, and we would like to know if / how we can use the technology that the Ray is using instead of or with traditional asphalt. We were thinking of installing solar panels or a rain collection system. We would be happy to share our data from this endeavor if anyone is interested. "

John Ezzell
BIAS Corporation
04.20.2020

Thank you for reaching out! Everyone can participate in The Ray and bring parts of it into their communities, and we’re happy to help you do that. The Ray, its solution set of innovations, and the public-private-philanthropic partnership model that enables the infrastructure, research and testing is a scalable, relevant and transferable blueprint for other states and even other countries.

As of April 2020, Wattway for walkways and bike paths is a commercial product. To date, our Wattway is still the only drivable Wattway surface in the U.S. If you’re interested in learning more about our pilot, let us know; we’re happy to share our data and experience. While we haven’t tried a rain collection system yet, we think it’s a great idea and would be excited to hear about your results. Like you, we believe in transparency and data sharing. We worked with Duquesne University to analyze data from three of our early flagship pilot projects discussed in this report, and we will continue to publicize research and analysis as we grow.

Another alternative you may want to consider for repaving is rubberized asphalt. Scrap tires can be upcycled to create quieter, crack-resistant, and longer-lasting roads. The first mile of interstate lanes on The Ray, starting at the Georgia-Alabama state line and including the parking lot of the rest area, was paved with asphalt that contains rubber from 3,520 recycled scrap tires. That’s 42,240 pounds of rubber out of the landfill and into the road.

If you can come and see The Ray in person, we’d love to show you our sustainable innovations in action and hear about your goals. If you can’t make it down in person, please email us and tell us about your project and what you’re trying to replicate. We’re more than happy to set aside time to share our experiences with you and see how we can help advance your project.

"What percent of your funding goes to overhead and marketing? "

Jeff Williams
Frequent I-85 driver
03.17.2020

On average, The Ray spends approximately 18 percent of our funding on operating costs. The national average that nonprofits spend on overhead and marketing is around 36.9 cents on the dollar or 37 percent, according to The Nonprofit Times. Our commitment to transparency has been recognized by GuideStar, who awarded The Ray a 2019 Silver Seal of Transparency. We are proud of our track record of using every dollar donated to The Ray towards our three core missions of zero carbon, zero waste, and zero deaths on our highway system. You can support us and join the movement below.

Make a Donation

"Given that solar panels work most efficiently when pointed directly at the sun, isn't it wasteful to put them flat on the ground?"

Andrew Parker
01.03.2019

You are right - solar panels are the most efficient tilted at an angle, that's why putting solar on rooftops makes so much sense! In fact, in 2019 we're working with Georgia Power to install a one-megawatt solar array in one of The Ray's diamond interchanges.

The solar road is not a question of either/or. The Wattway proves that the road can do more than provide a surface for vehicles to get from point A to point B; it can generate energy. Our transportation system is being smarter every year and will demand more energy. Some of that increased demand could be met by clean, renewable energy generated on the road itself. Our 50 square meter demonstration project generates, in one year, approximately the equivalent energy to the average American home's electricity use in the same time frame.

"I want to know more about how The Ray actually works. Who funds The Ray?"

Abdul Razaq
Student
11.05.2018

Great question! The Ray is 501c3 nonprofit charity organization. We receive an endowment from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and are also supported through individual donations.

Many of our projects are funded through the public-private-philanthropic (P4) model, meaning that The Ray brings public/government partners and corporations together with The Ray to fund many of our demonstration projects. The Ray is at its best when we work together across sectors to achieve our common goals! If you go to the Technology portion of our website, you will see a "Powered By" section. This indicates the partners that support the project, financially or otherwise.

"Solar roadways are an exciting idea. If another city or state wants to launch a Wattway pilot, where can they start?"

Michelle Moore
CEO at Groundswell
06.02.2018

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/

"What’s the most unique project you currently have on The Ray?"

Beth Bond
Southeast Green
05.07.2018

The Ray has had the opportunity to demonstrate several technologies that are “firsts,” that really make The Ray unique. Our PV4EV (solar fast charge station for electric vehicles) was the first of its kind to be located at a rest stop in the south east. Our Wattway solar road is the first drivable solar road demonstration in the United States, and the second in the world. Our WheelRight tire safety station, which checks both tire pressure and tread depth without the driver leaving the vehicle, is the first in the world. Finally, our pollinator garden located at the Visitor Information Center was the first planted on Georgia Department of Transportation land.

"How do pollinator gardens help a roadway? Please help me understand the connection."

Susan Crotty
Government Affairs Special Project Manager - Road To Zero at National Safety Council
03.18.2018

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?

"If you grow crops in the right-of-way, would the chemicals and metals in water running off from the highway threaten them or bio-accumulate in them?"

John Lanier
Executive Director, Ray C. Anderson Foundation
02.26.2018

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.

"The Ray has become a model for rethinking transportation. Many of your projects have been consumer oriented. Does The Ray have anything planned for semi-trucks?"

Beth Bond
Southeast Green
02.06.2018

The Ray is a key logistics corridor for the region. There are over 40 international companies located in LaGrange and more than a hundred manufacturers in Troup County - that’s more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere in the United States! This presents us with a unique opportunity. We have planned a future pilot project focusing on connected vehicles (CV), focused on freight activity. A CV study of freight vehicles can help us understand how to make platooning safer, how best to synchronize routes, and how to maximize efficiencies such as drafting.

In addition to the obvious economic benefit of this pilot project, there’s a human life component. The Ray is also a tourism corridor. That means that families are driving through on their way to the new Great Wolf Lodge or driving east to the coastal beaches. Crashes involving heavy fright are often fatal, therefore, increasing the safety of semi-trucks that drive up and down our corridor alongside family vehicles is an important part of creating a zero-death highway.

"How can a highway educate drivers about the pollution coming out of their vehicle tailpipes? What are the most effective/persuasive ways to inform highway drivers about the environmental damage caused by combustion engines?"

Rob Davis
Director, Center for Pollinators in EnergyFresh Energy
01.12.2018

This is a great question! Measuring and effectively communicating the pollution impact of individual cars is a critical step to educating drivers. Connected vehicles outfitted with pollution sensors or drones on repetitive flight patterns could gather general data about pollution levels on the road. That data could then be made available to the public. Additionally, emerging sensor technology could be deployed on The Ray to capture individual car pollution levels that could then be communicated to the driver in an easy-to-understand format. For example, underbridge lighting could change colors based on the pollution levels of the cars underneath. Something like this could be a great public education opportunity to take abstract numbers that represent pollution and make them real!

"How many miles apart do DC fast chargers, like one on The Ray, need to be placed to establish a safe network for EVs like the KIA Soul?"

Tim Echols
12.26.2017

A DC fast charge can bring most EVs to an 80% charge in 20 minutes. A KIA Soul has a 90 mile range so DC fast chargers need to be located every 50 or 60 miles to ensure adequate charging opportunities. It’s important to remember that while fast chargers are crucial for interstate and highway travel, most travel can be supported by trickle charging, a significantly cheaper option. In urban environments, many people will be able to trickle charge overnight. For charging necessary throughout the day, strategic locations (think shopping centers and office spaces) and infrastructure, like light posts that be retrofitted for a trickle charge hook up, can combine to ensure all EVs have enough options, without the high cost of DC fast chargers.