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December 2010
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Solar Energy Lights the Bridge Above …

An innovative partner research program offered by ODOT was the impetus for the first solar highway project in the state of Ohio. Richard Martinko, director of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Toledo, said that the ODOT program allowed UT to find partners and to line up funding to research solar power for highway lighting on the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway. The project involves a group of northwest Ohio companies that provided services, installation, and products at a significant discount to meet the terms of the research program. Additional funds came from federal money specifically allocated to sustainable energy use on the new bridge.

The installation is experimental. The two solar array manufacturers – Xunlight and First Solar – are testing their systems for durability in a highway environment, and the University of Toledo is collecting and analyzing data collected at the site. If the solar installation proves to be feasible and cost-effective it could set the stage for many more highway projects like it. The project would establish baseline specifications, unit prices, and equipment that could be included in future Requests for Proposals for solar powered highway lights and signs.

The solar array installation is on the east side of I-280 near the Greenbelt Parkway overpass, south of Central Avenue. The system should be providing power by early January, 2011. As the research progresses, people interested in the project will be able to learn more at kiosks on the university campus and at the I-75 northbound rest area near Bowling Green. A website operated by UT will show real-time energy generation.

The installation consists of a utility grid tied to a photovoltaic system. There are 966 First Solar modules, 198 larger Xunlight modules, and a small UT structure which collects the data. Estimates are that the system will provide about 130,000 kilowatt hours per year – about three-quarters of the energy needed to power lighting on the bridge. Energy will be fed to the local power grid by day and ODOT will be credited for that amount against the power that bridge lights consume at night.


Richard Martinko, director of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Toledo, describes Ohio’s first solar highway project.


Site of the solar arrays that will power the pylon and other lighting on the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway. The project site is on about four acres on the east side of I-280 between the Greenbelt Parkway interchange and the Central Avenue overpass.


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