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Rte. 128 could get western hemisphere's first noise barrier that doubles as a solar-power generator

Solar-panel enabled noise-barrier wall

Rendering via MassDOT.

MassDOT reports it's negotiated a deal with two solar companies to outfit an existing 3,000-foot stretch of noise-barrier wall along Rte. 128 northbound in Lexington with solar panels as a pilot to see if the walls can be used to generate solar power and reduce the state's carbon footprint.

Under the letter of intent with KO-Solar and Solect, the solar-enabled barrier should generate 802,000 kWh a year - enough to power 120 homes and eliminate generation of 1.4 million tons of carbon dioxide. MassDOT says this will be the first power-generating noise-barrier wall in the western hemisphere.

MassDOT says the panels will not detract from the wall's main purpose - blocking noise from nearby homes.

It adds that the 3,000-foot distance is equivalent to twice the length of the Empire State Building were it to be laid on its side, or in more local terms, three times the length of a similarly reposed Prudential Building.

In recent years, MassDOT has allowed the installation of a series of solar farms in otherwise vacant land along the Massachusetts Turnpike.

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Comments

a pilot to see if the walls can be used to generate solar power

As long as they are south-facing, it's hard to fathom why they wouldn't work, just a vertically-stacked version of what you see along the Pike (and up in Salisbury, too).

You can click through to each of those sites to watch their output; it's fun to watch when there are clouds in some areas and sun in others. Of course, this is all a pretty small drop in the bucket, but at least it's something. Now, maybe a wall in places like between the Pike and Lower Allston … put some solar on it, too.

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Voting closed 30

It always strikes me as ironic when highway projects include solar panels and declare themselves ecological. Especially when it's solar panels on top of gas pumps. Do those even generate enough electricity to operate the pump that fills cars full of fossil fuel?

It would be better if we invested in the mass transit network and changed anti-density and anti-pedestrian planning policies in what's currently highway land.

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Voting closed 26

(short answer: no)

The barrier is already there. The choices involve

-adding a secondary function to the existing barrier
-leaving it there without coming up with a secondary function
-tearing the barrier down.

The third choice would involve the biggest waste of fossil fuels and production of carbon.

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Voting closed 49

So you’re in favor of any environmentally motivated project, even if it’s expensive window dressing with little benefit, and the money and effort would be more effective elsewhere?

Is there anyone at the Highway Department (which is what MassDOT effectively is) who is thinking about how to make the 128 corridor less of a car wasteland?

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Voting closed 7

Do you have any idea what this project IS? It's not "solar panels on top of gas pumps." We are talking about solar panels on a noise barrier. Would you prefer to take the noise barrier down, so the pedestrians and cyclists could get closer to the highway? WTF is wrong with you?

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Voting closed 16

Yes, let’s turn Carlisle into a maze of high-rises and tram stations to satisfy your new urbanist fantasy.

Some of us don’t do well in loud, crowded places.

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Voting closed 11

...does Carlisle have highways?

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Voting closed 21

Nobody wants to build even a single high rise in Carlisle, let alone a maze of them. This isn't about Carlisle. Chill out.

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Voting closed 12

Why not move all the toxic waste out of Chelsea.

Might kill all the mosquitoes the town generates.

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Voting closed 8

Desktop noise modeling that has been completed suggests there may be a slight improvement/reduction in noise levels for the abutters.

Why not make a structure with only one function have two functions? Especially when performance on the first function is thereby improved.

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Voting closed 36

As long as they don't produce any additional glare in drivers' eyes, sounds great.

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Voting closed 11

If a solar panel is producing a lot of glare then it is going to be quite inefficient as a solar panel.

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Voting closed 23

The most efficient design orientation for the panels is facing square to the sun midday. The angle would have to be way off vertically for solar glare to hit any cars, even accounting for solar arc during the day.

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Voting closed 16

If you can't handle glare, get off of the road.

Like permanently.

Learn to deal with it or gtfo of the roadway.

https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/dangers-of-driving-into-sun/

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Voting closed 11

I don't hear news from there any more, but when I lived out Fitchburg way, every winter featured a few geniuses who neglected to clean their windshields, then got on Rte 2 east. Long stretches of that road head straight into the rising winter sun, and peephole drivers are completely blinded by it. Oops, crash. So keep your windshield clean.

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Voting closed 8

If the amount of soot from cars and trucks decreases the output and if normal rainfall is enough to clear it off.

I'm all in favor of the test regardless.

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Voting closed 26

These companies design, install, and provide maintenance contracts for the systems. I imagine that is part of the letter of intent.

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Voting closed 12

Have used the noise walls as a canvas for their vandalism. They will have a competition to see who can tag the solar walls.

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Voting closed 7

I've always wondered why the median space doesn't have solar panels.

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Voting closed 12

Wind?

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Voting closed 11

You KNOW you are going to get hit.

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Voting closed 16

I'm thinking the larger medians where the lanes are far apart, like a couple hundred feet. Similar to the interchange in Natick with I-90 and rte 30 where there are panels between the loops of road.

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Voting closed 9

Was the solar panel wearing a helmet?

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Voting closed 13

Amount of people crashing into the medians probably has something to do with it. Now, why they plant (and then MOW, JESUS) european origin turfgrass that's horrible for the native ecosystem and has to be maintained in the medians, that I don't get. Native groundcover should be used anywhere the state is leaving empty patches of ground.

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Voting closed 18

Personally I'd love to see rail tracks installed in major highway medians, since it's wasted land in an already-proven transit corridor.

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Voting closed 10

Transit needs to go to dense, walkable neighborhoods (mixed, commercial, industrial, residential) to work well. Most of the 128 corridor doesn't meet that.

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Voting closed 7

Transit needs to go to dense, walkable neighborhoods (mixed, commercial, industrial, residential) to work well.

As a destination, sure, I guess. But your dismissive "nah" seems to miss the point of various transit systems, such as the Seattle light rail services, that work along a similar model (suburban stops, "dense walkable" endpoints) and seem to work just fine.

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Voting closed 6

Take longer to install than estimated and the lifetime maintenance contract will make the electricity generated negligible. and we will also create a new department with a few well paid state employees to oversee it. . Just my opinion.
I think it's a great idea in principle, but we shall see if it's as inefficient as the HOV lane.

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Voting closed 8

Sadly, you would need to find someone willing to drive with you.

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Voting closed 20

citations needed

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Voting closed 7

That there's a reason why this is a pilot project. You know, to see what the cost/benefit ratio is.

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Voting closed 9

Acknowledges that fact.

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Voting closed 5

"Usage of the HOV lane peaks at 1,200 vehicles between 7 and 8 a.m. and 1,300 vehicles between 3 and 4 p.m., according to the MassDOT data." Out of approximately 180,000 to 200,000 cars per day along that stretch.
The growing use of hybrid and electric cars is a plus as well but the people running it say it's not being used by the numbers predicted when first installed, and it costs over a million dollars per year to operate.

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Voting closed 8

I often avoid the HOV even when driving with multiple people in the car, just because there's been a few experiences of getting stuck in traffic in that single separated lane. At least in the multilanes you can move around to be efficient.

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Voting closed 11

Not fun I'm sure.

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