Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

The Austin Solar Bikeway

People love to bike except when its blazing hot. Lets provide shade and solar power to recharge e-bikes, scooters and lights at night.

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Proposal: Install decoratively styled frames supporting solar panels along 20-50 miles of various bikeways in Austin.

Purpose: Built in stages to provide shade to needed areas without tree cover, and to generate several hundred Kw and offset the energy used to power the lights at night by using Tesla batteries for storage.

Who: This joint venture project is a collaborative effort between City Departments, private solar installers, and Austin Metal workers.

Detail:  While the new bike trails look awesome, there is just one step to go to make it perfect, SHADE! The freshly planted trees staggered along the bikeway will eventually, in 5-10 years, provide some cover from the intense Summer sun. However, they do not cover large stretches or across bridges.   Trees also block overhead street lights for night time commuting.

 This project, implemented in staged segments will provide immediate relief and contribute to the overall goal of increasing Distributed Generation throughout the City. After this proof of concept segment has been successful, it can be expanded to other 20 to 50 miles of bikeways across the city, and not just a retrofit to existing bikeways, but included in the overall Imagine Austin Master Plan for all new Public Works and Art in Public Places projects. 

Partnering with Rails to Trials Foundation, Austin Energy,  and the local neighborhoods to select various rights of way can turn a blight into an asset. For example, converting the right of way underneath high voltage power lines, or an abandoned railway to an attractive solar bikeway now will connect in stead of divide neighborhoods.  

Physically the panels can be mounted on either standard ‘bus stop’ like supports or a more aesthetically pleasing decorative metal art. In addition, the fully articulating Solar Wing support allows much more flexibility in placement and layout.  These public art solar stands could take the form of the frames covering utility boxes around City Hall, or as single silhouettes of active people running, biking, shooting basketball,  i.e. the Tejano Trail sculptures in East Austin.  Several kiosks at the trailheads and along the trail will contain battery storage and charge ports for e-bikes, e-scooters, and other portable devices. These way stations could also include wi-fi.  The underside of the panels will house LED lights for dusk-to-dawn lighting of the trail. 

The supports for the solar panels will be made by local metal artists with designs approved by the benefiting community, and the panels and associated infrastructure would be provided by local installers.  Our proposal calls for the partnership to own the hardware and for AE to purchase the energy produced at the normal rates through a Power Purchase Agreement within the Community Solar program. The entire modular network will be tied into the local grid as well as the Tesla battery storage system. Estimate 800 Kw per mile for 20 miles is about 16 Mw of solar power available for Community Solar subscription. 

Benefits: The City benefits in many ways. First, the goodwill for adding attractive and functional shade covering to the bike ways. Second, adding a substantial amount to the City’s overall goal of increasing availability and use of Green Power without having to spend tax dollars to install or maintain the units. Lastly, this highly visible demonstration to the citizens of Austin, the City’s commitment to making Austin the most livable city in the US.

Christopher Summers

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

The more than 10,000 people per day that use the City of Austin's trail network, plus tens of thousands more who could be using alternate commute modes. With a wide enough pathway pedestrians with shopping carts, joggers, and wheelchairs will also be able to use the new network. The other benefactors will be the citizens who can now subscribe to an additional 16Mw of Community Solar. Since the installations will be in East Austin, those neighborhoods will get a preferred subscription period prior to opening city wide. Lastly, the implementing communities will gain a beautiful and functional asset to their neighborhood. People can now commute to work or to the store safely day or night and arrive not all drenched in sweat.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Initial meetings with City staff and cycling commuters was very positive and they expressed a desire to move to the next stage.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

I am an idea generator and entrepreneur. I enjoy developing innovative solutions and applying them in a creative environment. The Solar Wing CEO has also been helpful advising on design considerations. I also plan to collaborate with the League of American Bicyclists to assist in modifying local laws and policies to streamline implementation. Also the Rails to Trails Foundation could assist in selecting rights of way.

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough budget (500 characters)

Engineering, consulting, and design, purchase and installation of solar panels and LED lights, construction of solar array supports and Solar Wings. Purchase and installation of Soofa benches, purchase and installation of Tesla battery storage. Purchase and installation of safety/traffic signals where the trail interconnects with other roadways. City, State, and County permits.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

The City of Austin Public Works Dept has agreed in principal to an initial pilot project along a newly acquired land tract in the AE right of way, designated as the next leg in the Austin Bike Trail. My plan is to hire engineering and design teams, along with Solar Wing and Tesla, to help with construction plans and integrate into Austin Energy grid. Partnering with Art in Public Places gives the implementing community some means of participating in ensure the systems beauty in addition to being functional. Additional grants for local artists collaborating on the project will not only help reduce project expenses, but support the local artist community.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

After completion, the first success metric is the number is users commuting and recreation users of the initial segment compared with other recently opened trail segments. Secondly, the number of AE customers and rate of subscriptions of those who subscribe to the newly available Community Solar capacity as compared to previous capacity availability. Finally I would measure user feedback and requests for more solar powered shaded bikeways and additional solar powered public art displays.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Through the planned purchase agreement with Austin Energy for the purchase of generated energy from the system, we can expand the pilot to other trails in Austin and other communities who recognize the benefit of increased healthy mobility options paired with simultaneous clean utility scale energy generation. As Austin grows and expands, the need for transportation options and clean energy will grow accordingly. By including this system into the City master plan ensures success on all fronts.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Franklin Brown

Hi Christopher,
My team and I would like to extend an open invitation to collaborate with you in the Ford 2019 City:One Challenge. Our Austin Green Health Zones project was designed to be an inclusive plan, and if we become the finalist in the competition, we would like to consider using your work as one of our included partnerships. Please take a moment to read our proposal and explore the various ways in which we maybe able to work together. We've already had a chance to look over your project and we think it would be a perfect fit to include in our plan, as our project was thought through and written to allow room for additional innovative projects just like yours. We're more than certain that you'll agree that it's a win-win situation for you and your team. Please feel free to contact us at anytime. We look forward to exchanging ideas and conversing with you soon. Thank you in advance for your time and best of luck in the challenge!

-Franklin Brown | Urban UAV Systems & Consulting, Inc.

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