While the state of Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is gearing up for what may be the world’s largest highway-related solar power project, residents are criticising the measure as too expensive—in dollars and in history. Oregon transportation officials propose installing 14,000 to 17,000 solar panels on 15 acres to produce 3.2 million kW/hrs of power each year, or about one-sixth of ODOT’s needs.
The proposed area along interstate highway 150 is a forested area that lies at the end of the historic Oregon Trail and along the Willamette waterfalls. Residents doubt the benefits of the project will outweigh the negative side effects. Planners claim that most of the US$20 million will be paid for by private partners and utility companies who will use tax credits and grants to pay. Scott Burgess, a West Linn councillor who supports the project, commented, “It’s not an issue of beauty. It’s an issue of positive benefits from an environmental standpoint.”