The ODOT Solar Highway

ODOT's Office of Innovative Partnerships has been directed to lead the Department's exploration into locating solar panels on ODOT properties, including along state highway rights of way and the interstate system.

The 2007 Oregon Legislature passed Governor Kulongoski's Renewable Energy Package, making Oregon a nationwide leader in addressing the reduction of greenhouse gases which can lead to catastrophic climate change. A total of 25 energy-related bills were passed and signed into law, including the Renewable Portfolio Standard. The RPS says that Oregon must supply 25 percent of its electricity needs from new renewable sources by 2025. Oregon's Governor has further directed that Oregon government work to become 100 percent powered by renewable resources. There is a non-binding goal that one-third of this renewable energy will come from small-scale projects.

The Concept.

While transportation structures and rights-of-way, including shoulders, barriers, sound and retaining walls, abutments, pole mounts and even safety rest areas, have been utilized for almost 20 years in Europe to provide space for solar panels, this model has not yet been tested widely in the United States. ODOT is embarking on a project to test and demonstrate the viability of this model in Oregon, through one or more demonstration projects which will include the design, installation, operation and maintenance of roadside solar installations.

How Big?

To meet the Governor's goal of 100 percent renewable energy for state owned facilities, state government needs to produce something between 30 to 60 Megawatts. If solar energy was used to meet 20 percent of this goal, and half of that solar need was met by roadside PV, about 100 miles of roadway would be needed. ODOT currently maintains about 16,000 miles of shoulder right of way…the potential is clear. The challenge ahead is to find the best locations, design the most proficient system, develop the most cost effective financing structure, plan the most efficient maintenance and operations program, and then, flip the switch - on clean, renewable, secure energy.

What's the Timeline?

ODOT has posted a "Request for Information" to the industry seeking innovative information from private or public interested parties for the design, development and implementation of a project or projects to test options for the generation of clean, renewable energy through installation of solar photovoltaics (PVs) on ODOT-owned property, including highway and freeway rights-of-way. This RFI is seeking information which will solidify the demonstration project or projects' vision, and should include:

* assessing and developing recommendations for innovative financing, including unique public-private / 3rd party investor financing structures;

* identifying potential solar power "plant" locations, including shoulders, barriers, walls, abutments, pole mounts, safety rest areas, motor carrier ports of entry facilities, etc., relative to at least a 25 kW, and up to 250 kW, solar plant; and

* assessing design, installation, operations and maintenanceneeds, challenges and costs.

Interested parties are invited to register on the Oregon Procurement Information Network (ORPIN) at the address shown below and download RFI 730-00035-07. ORPIN is free, and registered parties will automatically receive by email any published addenda. The RFI and its addenda may also be accessed by clicking on the icons below, but ORPIN registration is highly encouraged as it will ensure any future addenda or notifications are received by interested parties.

ORPIN address:

The Department is currently developing siting criteria, which will be used in conjunction with information received through the RFI, to potentially move forward into a Request for Proposals period. Project progress reports will be posted to this site as they occur.

For more information, please contact:
Allison Hamilton, Project Director
Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding
Oregon Department of Transportation
P: 503.986.3732 Email:

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