When we think of highways, we don’t usually think of them as places of restoration and environmental healing–but The Ray is on a mission to transform them into just that. Where other people see useless, degraded land on the sides of highways, The Ray’s Executive Director Allie Kelly sees tens of thousands of acres that could be harnessed to provide clean energy for roadside electric vehicle chargers and generate much-needed revenue for communities whose economies have been harmed by the interstate system. In fact, a recent study from the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas estimated that the land around interstate interchanges in the lower 48 states has the potential to generate 36 terawatt hours (TWh) a year, or nearly a quarter of the distributed solar energy that a recent report by Local Solar for All estimated would be needed to reach the Biden administration’s 2030 climate goals.
The Ray has already made big strides towards realizing this. Starting in their backyard, they successfully partnered with the Georgia DOT to make Georgia the third state in the country to implement right of way (ROW) solar. Today, they are working with TxDOT, Arizona DOT, CORE SC and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority, amongst many others, to bring ROW solar to the rest of the country.
This work received a huge boost last week, when The Ray announced a partnership with Esri, the world-leading developer of geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping. Together, The Ray and Esri have configured a ROW solar mapping tool that enables transportation agencies to quickly evaluate the suitability of ROW for solar array placement. In the past, safety, environmental and future land-use considerations often made it challenging for state governments to locate suitable land for solar installations. Now, state DOTS can evaluate ROW land in a fraction of the time, assessing its suitability not just for solar energy, but other uses such as rural broadband or buried energy transmission lines. For more information, visit: The Ray.