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Sample solar array

Let us pretend, gentle readers, that we are card-carrying greenies. Let us further pretend we are absolutely dedicated to employing “renewable,” “sustainable” energy sources to the exclusion of evil carbon-based energy sources. Let us also pretend we are highly advanced–morally, intellectually and scientifically–beings, not stuck inside a conventional solar/wind box. What would we build? What would push the boundaries of science and greenie street cred? What could we design that would waste enormous amounts of public money while improving things not in the slightest? Oregon.gov (surprised?) answers these questions:

On December 19, 2008, the nation’s first solar highway project started feeding clean, renewable energy into the electricity grid, and the first Oregon Solar Highway project has been operating seamlessly ever since. The 104 kilowatt (dc) ground-mounted solar array, made up of 594 solar panels, is situated at the interchange of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 south of Portland, Oregon, and offsets over one-third of the energy needed for freeway illumination at the site

Uh, wait a minute: a solar highway? A “ground-mounted solar array”? And it “offsets” only 1/3 of the energy needed to light a few freeway lights at the limited site where it is installed? Gee. That doesn’t seem to be very efficient to me, but what do I know? I’m sure the greenie geniuses in the Oregon government have much more to say about this…

The project was developed through an innovative, first-in-the-nation public-private partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation  and Portland General Electric, and U.S. Bank as PGE’s tax equity partner. Through the use of state and federal renewable energy tax credits, accelerated depreciation, and grants offered through the Energy Trust of Oregon and PGE’s Clean Wind Fund, this award-winning partnership benefits PGE customers, including the State of Oregon and ODOT. The Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which represent the green power produced by the solar array, are retired on behalf of PGE’s customers, including the State of Oregon and ODOT.

Wow! It “benefits PGE customers!” And how does it do that? Why, “Through the use of state and federal renewable energy tax credits, accelerated depreciation, and grants offered through the Energy Trust of Oregon and PGE’s Clean Wind Fund,” and not only that, it retires Renewable Energy certificates.” Did you get that? It retires them! Uh, where’s the wind in this project, other than, of course, the hot air emanating from the bureaucrats involved?

The success of the nation’s first solar highway project led ODOT and PGE to explore further opportunities to put renewable energy onto Oregon’s grid and add value to the public’s transportation system right of way, and in 2011, construction began on the Baldock Solar Station.

These projects have sparked imaginations across the nation and the globe. To date, 36 states and 15 countries have contacted ODOT for assistance in developing projects and/or programs.

Maybe I’m missing something, but all these states and countries are begging Oregon to tell them how to produce a bit more than a third of the energy needed to run a few highway lights? Again, maybe I’m missing something…

Another sample solar array…

What’s Next?

While both projects are considered ‘successfully complete’ and out-performing expectations, the Oregon Solar Highway Program, supported in part by federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, is focused on helping others across the country. Working with Federal Highway Administration, we are assisting other state and local departments of transportation develop their own solar highway programs.

Uh, it’s “out-performing expectations”? What did they expect, that it would provide less than 1/3 of the energy necessary to run a few highway lights? Perhaps we ought to consult a non-governmental source for a clearer look at this wonderful, award-winning project. Perhaps The Daily Caller could help?

The Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways project generated an average of 0.62 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per day since it began publicly posting power data in late March. To put that in perspective, the average microwave or blow drier consumes about 1 kWh per day.

On March 29th, the solar road panels generated 0.26 kWh, or less electricity than a single plasma television consumes. On March 31st, the panels generated 1.06 kWh, enough to barely power a single microwave. The panels have been under-performing their expectations due to design flaws, but even if they had worked perfectly they’d have only powered a single water fountain and the lights in a nearby restroom.

Oh. Well, it couldn’t have cost too much, right?

Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways has been in development for 6.5 years and received a total of $4.3 million in funding to generate 90 cents worth of electricity.

Oh. Well, it must be ultra-reliable then, right?

The project broke down in late March and had to be repaired, and screenshots taken that month show the roadway’s electrical box caught fire. Firefighters soon showed up to the scene, prompting the solar project’s official webcam to issue an update: ‘The Solar Roadways electrical system is currently undergoing maintenance. Please check back late next week.

The real deal, or something like it…

Now, gentle readers, let’s pretend we’re rational human beings who understand such esoteric concepts as cost/benefit analysis, science and common sense. Wouldn’t solar panels incorporated into a highway tend to be unavailable to produce power whenever a vehicle drove over them? Wouldn’t they produce no power at night, when there are clouds, and in bad weather? And wouldn’t such panels tend to get, you know, dirty? Wouldn’t things like trees, and even people, tend to block the sun and limit energy production?  Parked cars?  And wouldn’t having vehicles, such as semi-tractor/trailers, constantly driving over them every day and night, tend to, you know, damage them, or at the very least, require an enormous amount of maintenance? And wouldn’t such panels tend to be substantially less efficient at generating electricity than conventional solar panels, which aren’t very efficient anyway? And if we, lacking the moral, intellectual and scientific brilliance to understand such things, can see these issues before a penny is spent, how is it our betters cannot see such things and must take years and spend millions to discover what we deplorables knew before a penny was spent or a minute of time wasted?

Even better, if we knew the project was going to be a failure before it began, how is it the brilliant minds at the Oregon Department of Transportation think it to be a stunning success? Still better, aren’t you glad you don’t live in Oregon?