LaGRANGE — Undeveloped interstate highway rights of way could be used to house solar panels, broadband projects and electric-vehicle charging stations under legislation being introduced by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff.
The Sustainable Highways Innovation Act is modeled after The Ray, an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in LaGrange used to test clean energy technologies, Ossoff, D-Ga., said Wednesday during a news conference held beside a solar array at the site.
The Ray — a nonprofit named in memory Ray Anderson, an environmentalist and founder of the flooring company Interface Inc. — also features a drive-over tire safety inspection station.
“We’re working in Congress to make a generational investment in clean energy,” Ossoff said.
The solar array at The Ray contains 2,600 panels that generate 1 megawatt of electricity, enough to power 170 homes. The five-acre site is owned by Georgia Power Co. under a 30-year lease with the state Department of Transportation.
“This is the best example in the country of a higher use of empty roadside land for the benefit of clean energy,” said Allie Kelly, The Ray’s executive director. “Everybody wins when we develop more roadside land for energy generation.”
The Georgia Public Service Commission gave the green light for The Ray as a demonstration project in 2016.
“Over the last five years, we’ve worked hard to partner with the DOT, state government and the Federal Highway (Administration) to allow us to bring technology from around the world here to be tested,” said Harriet Anderson Langford, the daughter of Ray Anderson and The Ray’s president and founder.
Ossoff is positioning himself as a leading advocate in the Senate for investing in forward-looking sustainable-energy projects. Last week, he introduced legislation that would offer tax credits to U.S manufacturers of solar panels.
On Wednesday, he said he would like to fold both the tax credit bill and the Sustainable Highways Innovation Act into broader infrastructure legislation being pushed by the Biden administration.
“This is all about envisioning where America needs to be in the near future,” Ossoff said. “We are serious about making the necessary investment.”