Last week, the Georgia Public Service Commission (Georgia PSC) authorized the funding for Georgia Power to construct, own and operate a one-megawatt solar array on Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) property at Exit 14 off Interstate 85, which is known as “The Ray.” Georgia will be the third state in the nation to utilize the grassy shoulder of an interstate highway, called the “right-of-way” (ROW), to generate solar energy. This unique project will pilot the use of native flowering plants as ground cover in test plots within the solar array, making Georgia the first in the nation to pilot pollinator-friendly, right-of-way solar.
“This project is an example of how Georgia DOT is doing more with Georgia’s infrastructure investments. Increasing our infrastructures productivity is smart and shows our responsibility to the taxpayer,” said Georgia DOT board member and former member of congress Lynn Westmoreland. “The Ray is helping us lead the nation.”
The ROW solar project is a partnership between Georgia DOT, Georgia PSC, Georgia Power, with support from its parent - Southern Company, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and The Ray. Construction of the solar array, which will be made up of 2,600 high-efficiency panels, will begin this fall, and energy delivered to Georgia Power’s electric grid is expected to begin in spring 2019. Total solar capacity is expected to be 946 KW to DC (direct current) or 800 KW to AC (alternating current). Georgia DOT extended to Georgia Power a 35-year license for use of the property. The solar energy produced and all associated renewable energy credits (RECs) benefit Georgia Power’s customers. Georgia Power will also install and operate 44 LED rampway lights on and along all four quadrants of Exit 14.
“The Ray gives us the opportunity to partner in ways we never would have before and collectively we stand to learn a lot about increasing sustainability in the transportation ecosphere,” said Georgia DOT Commissioner, Russell R. McMurry, P.E.
“Interstate highway land is an under-leveraged asset,” said Allie Kelly, executive director of The Ray. “We believe there is a natural connection between energy and transportation. Not only can we safely generate renewable energy using transportation infrastructure that we already own, but departments of transportation all over the country have the opportunity to tap into a brand new revenue source through land leases, lower energy costs, credits and other business models.”
“Through the leadership of the Georgia PSC, Georgia Power is able to collaborate with a tremendous team of partners including The Ray, Georgia DOT, EPRI and others to continue our efforts in researching and demonstrating innovative solar technologies,” said Wilson Mallard, director of Renewable Development for Georgia Power. “We look forward to gaining valuable experience with this pilot project about the potential for solar generation along the highway and pollinator-friendly ground cover to improve overall project performance and our environment.”
Through a collaboration with EPRI this project will be unique in testing a variety of native flowering plants as ground cover, to see which varieties work best in reducing erosion, maintaining soil stability, reducing maintenance and supporting the local ecology.
“Erosion is often a significant factor at solar facilities. We are excited to conduct research to see if short-growing native plants, with their robust root systems, offer not only high habitat value for pollinators but are also more drought and erosion resistant than often used construction seed mixes,” said John Acklen, principal technical leader, EPRI.
“The Ray, Georgia Power, EPRI and Georgia DOT have provided 35 years of valuable habitat for honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators that are critical to the success of our neighboring farm community,” said Harriet Langford, president and founder of The Ray. “And it’s going to be a beautiful addition to the interstate roadside!”
“The portion of Interstate 85 in West Georgia known as ‘The Ray’ is a living laboratory for many agencies in our state to explore emerging technology,” said Georgia PSC Commissioner Tim Echols. “The solar and pollinator project we approved today may be something that Georgia DOT duplicates across the state.”
“The Ray solar array and pollinator garden pilot project is an opportunity for Georgia to study new applications in renewable energy and conservation,” said Georgia PSC Commissioner Tricia Pridemore, whose district includes The Ray. “I look forward to the results as we shape Georgia’s energy future.”
Exploring opportunities in the transportation sector to generate solar and wind energy using existing assets and infrastructure is a long-term mission of the public-private-philanthropic partnerships (P4) enabled by The Ray. In 2015, The Ray opened a public, solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station, sponsored by KIA Motors America, at the Georgia Visitor Information Center, which is owned by Georgia DOT. One year later, The Ray and Georgia DOT unveiled the first solar-paved road in the U.S. - a pilot of the “Wattway” by COLAS, a French pavement innovation - on an access lane leading to the interstate.
About The Ray
The Ray is a proving ground for the evolving ideas and technologies that will transform the transportation infrastructure of the future, beginning with the corridor of road that is named in memory of Ray C. Anderson (1934-2011), a Georgia native who became a captain of industry and was recognized as a leader in green business when he challenged his company, Atlanta-based Interface, Inc., to reimagine the enterprise as a sustainable company—one that would pursue zero environmental footprint. Chaired by Ray’s daughter Harriet Langford, The Ray is an epiphany of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. Learn more at www.theray.org
About the Georgia Department of Transportation
Georgia Department of Transportation plans, constructs and maintains Georgia’s state and federal highways. They are involved in bridge, waterway, public transit, rail, general aviation, bike and pedestrian programs. In addition, they help local governments maintain their roads. Georgia DOT is committed to providing a safe, seamless and sustainable transportation system that supports Georgia’s economy and is sensitive to its citizens and its environment. Visit www.dot.ga.gov
About the Georgia Public Service Commission
The Georgia Public Service Commission is a five-member constitutional agency that exercises its authority and influence to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable, and reasonably-priced telecommunications, electric and natural gas service from financially viable and technically competent companies. For more information on the Commission visit the web site at www.psc.state.ga.us
About Georgia Power
Georgia Power is the largest electric subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), America's premier energy company. Value, Reliability, Customer Service and Stewardship are the cornerstones of the Company's promise to 2.5 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties. Committed to delivering clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy at rates below the national average, Georgia Power maintains a diverse, innovative generation mix that includes nuclear, coal and natural gas, as well as renewables such as solar, hydroelectric and wind.
The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI, www.epri.com) conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety and the environment. EPRI members represent 90% of the electric utility revenue in the United States with international participation in 35 countries. EPRI’s principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.