ODOT solar project

Toledo, OH The next time you drive I-280 near Greenbelt Parkway in Toledo, you'll see solar panels and flexible solar panels made in northwest Ohio. They could pave the way for solar power across our nation's highways.

Bright sunshine over Toledo shines down on our region's newest power plant. The solar panels are just off I-280.

Pete Alyanakian of First Solar says, "We see the cloverleafs as a real opportunity for solar in the future in the United States, really to increase sustainability throughout the country."

This cloverleaf is now full of solar panels made by First Solar and Xunlight, two companies based in Toledo and leading the nation in solar production.

Xunming Deng, president and CEO of Xunlight Corp., says, "This will be very quickly covered with all solar panels. That's five panels there and it will be covered with 200. We actually have panels ready."

Those flexible panels plus rows of Frst Solar's panels will start generating power next spring. UT will monitor the output and see if solar could feasibly power highway lights and bridges in the future.

Xunming says, "The flexible solar panels are highly desirable for rooftops, landfill covers and highway right of ways like this. You lay down the membrane and glue them on top, very simple, very quick, low cost."

The panels may be low cost, but this projects $1.5 million price tag was part of funding for the Veterans Glass City Skyway. Solar enthusiasts say research dollars now will bring benefits down the road.

Alyanakian says, "You kind of have to discount the cost of a project like this 'cause you can see there's so much infrastructure at work here, not so much the solar part of it but the infrastructure to actually get to the site. But really it'll be our kids who will be the critical mass users of solar."

UT will study the solar output over the next two years, and you'll be able to check in on it as well. ODOT will set up a website on the solar project for the public, plus a kiosk at the rest stop on I-75 near Bowling Green.

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