Photo: David Arnold at GPS Studios
State departments of transportation (State DOTs) own and maintain significant land areas along highways. These “right-of-way” (ROW) areas are appealing locations for renewable energy development for many reasons including
Renewable energy development along our roadsides has the potential to help states reduce their energy costs, reduce their land maintenance costs, increase resilience and local energy security, create new revenue streams, and meet broader renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission targets. Learn more about these beneficial public-private partnerships for highway solar in the new research The Ray Highway Project: Assessment of solar potential installed in ROWs across the U.S.
“We have unlimited, renewable power from that marvelous fusion reactor eight minutes away at the speed of light to tap into and distribute from one end of our country to the other.”
Ray C. Anderson, 2008
Most states have more than 200 miles of empty roadside land suitable for solar energy development on the highway system, totaling over 127,500 acres. Placing solar panels just at exits and interchanges could generate up to 36 tera-watt hours (TWh), or 1% of our nation’s energy demand, which is a $4 billion economic opportunity for State DOTs. There are even more opportunities to install solar panels within other areas of “right-of-way,” including rest areas and visitor centers.
The map below, developed by the Webber Energy Group at UT Austin in partnership with The Ray, shows the location, size, estimated solar energy production, and estimated value of that solar production for interstate interchanges in the lower contiguous 48 states. We invite you to explore this interactive map and see how much solar your state can support
Several states have already developed "solar highway" projects, including Oregon, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia. In 2020, the Georgia Power Company commercialized a one-megawatt solar array at Exit 14 of The Ray Highway. Georgia is the third state in the nation to utilize the highway roadsides for renewable energy development. The project on The Ray Highway also uses native, flowering plants as ground cover within the solar array, making Georgia the first in the nation to install pollinator-friendly ROW solar.
Video: David Arnold at GPS Studios