Today the Oregon Department of Transportation and Portland General Electric opened the nation’s largest solar highway at the Baldock Safety Rest Area off I-5 near Wilsonville. You can check it out by visiting the rest area (see directions below).
The $10 million roadside solar project is using nearly 7,000 solar panels to generate renewable power in a public right of way. It can create enough electricity to power 165 homes.
Last year, when the state broke ground on the project, I wrote about how ODOT sees solar highways as a way to pay for road work in the future. Allison Hamilton, the project manager for ODOT, said she envisions the state charging fees to solar power developers and using that money to pay the agency’s bills:
“What we all envision in the Department of Transportation is that as solar continues to decline in costs, developers will have more profit margin and be able to pay more money for these site license fees. That will be more valuable as a future revenue stream for the Department of Transportation. And that’s really important because as we move into electric cars we’re moving away from the gas tax and we need to find a way to operate and maintain the transportation system of the future.”
You can get an idea of what the project looks like from the photo above. Here’s how to see it for yourself:
DRIVING AND PARKING DIRECTIONS TO THE NORTHBOUND BALDOCK SAFETY REST AREA (just south of Wilsonville on I-5 northbound):• From Portland and points north of Wilsonville: take I-5 south PAST the southbound Baldock Safety Rest Area to the next exit, which is exit 278.• Take a left and cross over the interstate; take a left and get back on I-5 north to the next exit, which is the northbound Baldock Safety Rest Area.• Proceed past the main parking areas and take a right all the way around to the back of the rest area.• From Salem and points south of Wilsonville, take I-5 northbound to the Baldock Safety Rest Area.• Proceed past the main parking areas and take a right all the way around to the back of the rest area.