American researchers probe feasibility of solar noise barriers for major highways

Researchers in the US are looking into whether road barriers used to reduce noise pollution could also be fitted with photovoltaic panels to generate electricity.

The project is looking into possible designs and the costs and benefits of the idea.

The work is being carried out by a team that includes engineers from the US Department of Transportation’s Volpe Centre in Massachusetts, UK transport consultant Innovia Technology and innovation foundation the Ray, which previously tested 50 sq m of energy-generating solar roadway in the Georgia region.

If barriers were built on the side of roadways, they would not need any dedicated land, like solar farms do, and could generate energy with less overhead costs. However, Andy Milton from Innovia Technology, said: "We found that selecting the right solar noise barrier technology for the right situation is critical.

"Important factors include the required noise reduction, road orientation, local insolation and the local value of electricity. The aesthetics are also critical and especially in urban settings, significant value is placed on a better looking barrier."

Harriet Langford, founder of the Ray, said: "Miles of sound barriers have been produced from the same traditional materials over and over again. By changing the decision on the front end about what kind of materials we use, we can unlock additional value.

"If you can mitigate noise pollution and produce renewable energy at the same time, why wouldn’t you?"

There are about 30 solar noise barriers installed worldwide, with most being in Germany and Switzerland.

Read the research in more detail here.

Image courtesy of the Ray

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News