Harnessing Solar Energy Through Noise Barriers and Structural Snow Fencing

Status:  Complete
Report Date:  08/31/2021


The research studied the possibility of harnessing solar energy through right-of-way associated structures, such as noise barriers and snow fences. A detailed survey was conducted with the general public, farmers, and utility companies to determine their acceptance of such an initiative. A large percentage of the general public, farmers, and utility companies welcomed the idea of harnessing power using right-of-way associated structures. Further, a detailed structural design for the solar noise barrier and snow fence were created. The effects of the solar panels installed on noise barriers or snow fences in terms of noise reduction, glaring, impact and crash responses, and snow-drift responses were studied, and the potential influence on traffic safety was summarized. To utilize the generated energy, a convenient connection with the power grid through modularized controllers and inverters was developed and tested in a lab setting. It is verified through the lab testing that such a prototype can realize the proposed functionalities very well. Based on the developed system and including the cost of materials, construction, and maintenance, a cost-benefit model was created to analyze the possible scenarios for MnDOT to implement such a system and to guide MnDOT with its decision.

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