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Dept of Transportation

An Update on the Nation’s First Solar Highway Project

Under a layer of snow, the Nation’s first Solar Highway project started feeding clean, renewable energy into the electricity grid Dec. 19, 2008. The 104 kilowatt ground-mounted solar array, situated at the interchange of Interstate 5 — a federally designated Corridor of the Future — and Interstate 205, supplies about one-third of the energy needed for illumination at the site.

 SunWay 1, LLC, a limited liability company managed by Portland General Electric, owns and operates this solar power plant.

 Solar energy produced by the array feeds into the grid during the day. At night, the meter essentially runs backward as energy flows back from the grid to light the interchange. ODOT, through a Solar Power Purchase Agreement with PGE, buys the energy produced by the array at the same rate the agency pays for regular energy from the grid.


Oregon companies supplied the materials, designed, installed, and now operate and maintain this first-of-its-kind project, which showcases what can be accomplished through creative, responsible partnering in the public and private sectors.

SolarWorld AG of Hillsboro supplied the solar panels and PV Powered Inc. of Bend supplied the inverter.

The project was designed, constructed and installed by SolarWay, a “turn-key” solar energy EPC (engineer/procure/construct) consortium consisting of four Oregon firms:

  • Aadland Evans Constructors Inc. of Portland, general contractor;
  • Moyano Leadership Group Inc. of Salem, project manager and design leader;
  • Advanced Energy Systems (AES) of Eugene, solar power specialty designer and installer; and
  • Good Company of Eugene, community and sustainability specialist.


This collaborative project showcases the abilities of Oregon small business: the Good Company, Moyano Leadership Group, and AES are all certified as emerging small businesses in Oregon.

Solar Installer Contact Information

ODOT is compiling contact information for solar installers interested in completing solar photovoltaic projects for ODOT and will share that contact information with other state and local agencies for subsequent procurements. If you would like to have your contact information included, please complete the survey (link below).

Solar Survey

 What’s next? It takes more than 47 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually to run Oregon’s state transportation system — energy used for signals, illumination, buildings, ramp metering and more. The nation’s first solar highway project supplies about 128,000 kWh a year, leaving about 46.9 million kWh still supplied from mostly non-renewable sources. Does Oregon DOT plan more solar highway projects for the future?

 Yes! In 2008, the Oregon Transportation Commission directed ODOT’s Office of Innovative Partnerships to procure up to two megawatts of solar energy on ODOT properties, including along the state highway right of way and the interstate system. Following the success of the demonstration project, in June of 2009, the OTC approved investigating specific solar highway project development opportunities in PGE and PacifiCorp territories, including:

adding 150 kilowatts to the demonstration project site (maximizing the available space);

installing 1.5 Megawatts at the I-5 northbound Baldock Safety Rest Area north of Wilsonville;

installing 3 Megawatts on the north side of I-205 at the ODOT Maintenance storage facility in West Linn; and

developing a project with PacifiCorp in the Medford area.

These partnerships with Oregon’s investor-owned utilities, PGE and PacifiCorp, which supply almost two-thirds of the electricity used by ODOT, could make it possible to develop economic scale projects on ODOT owned land using essentially the same third-party financing model developed for the demonstration project. The utilities would contract with solar developers to design, build and install the arrays, which they – the utilities or limited liability companies involving the utilities – would own, operate and maintain, and which could count towards meeting statutory requirements to develop renewable energy resources. The utilities would also be responsible for maintenance and successful operation of the arrays, including any damage due to vandalism or crashes.

 ODOT would purchase all electricity generated by the systems under a Solar Power Purchase Agreement, for a term from six to 20 years or longer.

The contemplated projects would build on the knowledge gained from the demonstration project and would serve to help in the ongoing improvement of the concept. Oregon’s solar highway future holds the promise of over 120 miles of solar highway installation – and that future is underway.

 What’s the timeline?

Pending results of site analyses, NEPA studies and public outreach activities, projects could potentially get underway this year, starting with the build-out of the demonstration project. Other projects would follow in 2010 and out.

 The concept of generating solar electricity in the highway operating right of way is of keen interest to solar industry providers, state and federal elected officials, the Federal Highway Administration, the Oregon Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy. While “roadside solar” has operated successfully for almost 20 years in Europe, it had not been attempted in the United States until the ODOT project. With its commissioning, the Oregon Solar Highway project extends Oregon’s role as a leader in the development of alternative energy resources and showcases the state’s vision and leadership to meet the energy challenges ahead creatively.

Policies and strategies adopted in the Oregon Transportation Plan support this renewable energy project. Policy 4.2 — Energy Supply states that it is the policy of the state of Oregon to support efforts to move to a diversified and cleaner energy supply, promote fuel efficiencies and prepare for possible fuel shortages. Strategy 4.2.1 directs ODOT to support efforts to move toward a diversified and cleaner energy supply.

Oregon DOT offers special recognition to Portland General Electric for their contribution to this innovative project. Without their willingness to lead the nation and partner with ODOT, this project could not have happened.

ODOT further recognizes consultant Lynn Frank of Five Stars International, an Oregon management consulting and professional services firm, for his crucial role in bringing this project to life, including project direction, technical and regulatory energy expertise.

The 2007 Oregon Legislature instituted policies for the state of Oregon to arrest its growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2010, only one year away. In step with this legislative directive, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski directed state agencies to meet their electrical needs with 100 percent renewable resources. Given the constitutional limits on allowable uses of the Highway Fund, this directive proved particularly challenging for ODOT.

Fortunately, innovative financing mechanisms using public-private partnerships are available, which can allow ODOT to secure clean, renewable energy — without paying a premium — from assets it already owns. These public-private partnerships use the 50 percent state Business Energy Tax Credit, the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit and utility incentives (available in PGE and PacifiCorp territories) to finance projects, credits which ODOT, having no tax liability, cannot take advantage of on its own.

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