The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has partnered with Idaho-based Solar Roadways to install and help test the company’s solar panels on a 12-foot-by-20-foot area of the main sidewalk at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, Mo.
The pilot project will allow MoDOT to test how the hexagon-shaped panels fare in Missouri’s weather, and the agency says it is particularly interested to see how effective the panels will be at melting snow and ice during the winter months. The pilot project will test the LED lights in the panels to see if there is potential for them to take the place of traditional pavement stripes. Officials will also be monitoring the amount of energy produced and looking at how that can be used to help power the Welcome Center and offset running costs. The solar panels will be installed in late September.
The project is part of MoDOT’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative, which aims to develop public-private partnerships to look at new and innovative ways to fund Missouri’s transportation infrastructure. The sidewalk project with Solar Roadways will cost $102,000, which comes from federal funds earmarked for such research. If the pilot project is successful, MoDOT says it will consider the potential of crowdfunding to expand the project into the parking lot, or onto the entrance ramps to the interstate, to test how the panels hold up under traffic.
Laurel McKean, MoDOT assistant district engineer, says, “This is a really exciting project to be able to take the spirit of Route 66 combined with innovations in transportation to carry that spirit into the future.”