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.