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America’s First Solar Highway Debuting Next Week

Parul Dubey on December 16, 2016 - in Transportation

Next week, the Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway (The Ray), an 18-mile section of I-85 in West Georgia that is a model for the highway of the future, will unveil two state-of-the-art technologies that are firsts in the U.S.: Wattway drive-over solar panels that turn ordinary highways into power producers, and the WheelRight drive-over tire safety system that provides tire pressure and tread depth information to drivers to dramatically improve fuel economy and highway safety.

The Ray’s 50-square meter-installation of Wattway solar paving panels features thin, skid-resistent panels that can be applied directly over existing paving without affecting the driveability of the road, potentially feeding electricity into the grid and powering public lighting and road signs and signals in cities, towns and remote areas. A one-kilometer stretch of road paved with Wattway can provide the electricity to power public lighting in a city of 5,000.  Global energy needs are expected to double by 2050; roads, which are only occupied by vehicles 10 percent of the time, provide extensive surface area across the country that could be harnessed to produce solar energy. Colas, a world leader in transport infrastructure, first debuted Wattway in France earlier this year in a partnership with the French National Institute for Solar Energy (INES), and chose The Ray as a beta site, beating out other potential U.S. sites because of the potential for The Ray to be successful in driving large scale change.

The WheelRight Tire Pressure Monitoring System can measure tire pressure and tread on vehicles traveling up to about 15 mph; drivers simply roll over the monitor and receive a text message with critical information about their tire pressure. Improperly inflated tires guzzle fuel, increase carbon emissions and endanger drivers and passengers. An estimated 1 in 4 cars and 1 in 3 light trucks on U.S. roads have at least one underinflated tire. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that underinflated tires waste 2 billion gallons of fuel each year in the U.S. alone. WheelRight, located in the UK, was established with a vision to research, develop and commercialize technologies to automate the inspection of tires on any vehicle while the vehicle is in motion.

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