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Minnesota Department of Transportation
This 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 of 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. Furthermore, 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 make the generated energy usable, a convenient connection with the power grid through modularized controllers and inverters was developed and tested in a lab setting. It was verified through the lab testing that such a prototype can realize the proposed functionalities very well. Based on the developed system and including 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 in its decision.
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