ROADS/BRIDGES: Land of 10,000 Lakes looks to go solar

Oct. 24, 2014

Minn. DOT issues call for proposals to develop solar highway tech

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), in effort to meet compliance with Minnesota Statue 216H, which requires the agency to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels by 15% from their 2005 recorded levels by the end of next year, has issued a request for proposals toward constructing a series of solar arrays that would, in theory, provide the state with a reliable source of clean energy.

To date, Oregon is the only state to implement solar arrays as an energy source, despite a brief flirtation with development in California in 2010. Should state legislators clear red tape to the degree that a sufficient amount of free land can be made available to whatever proposal comes to fruition, Minnesota would be in line to set a standard for applying solar technology to large-scale infrastructure demands.

According to the request for proposals issued by MnDOT, the agency is seeking a firm to not only design and develop a network of solar arrays, but to operate them as well. Since the state is presently mired in a struggle against dwindling revenue streams, it is seen as advantageous to have a private contractor in place to handle operations, thus lowering the state’s cost burden while boost the strength of its infrastructure and satisfying the fecund statue’s terms.

It is hoped that the project will result in up to 5 MW of power; however, it remains to be seen whether tracts of land broad enough to produce such wattage exist along local highways. According to MnDOT, an acre of land is needed to levy a minimum 1 MW capacity.

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