When it comes to family matters, many Southerners are familiar with the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The concept is built on the idea that parents rely on a community of people – including friends, family members, neighbors, coaches and teachers – to help guide their children down a wholesome, well-rounded path into adulthood. Interacting with upstanding adults has long been regarded as a promising framework for child development.
The state of Georgia’s contribution to the energy industry functions in much of the same way. Energy-focused businesses benefit from a myriad of partnerships and programs developed and nurtured by the Georgia Center of Innovation for Energy Technology to provide resources and support to companies in the energy sector. By leveraging these relationships, energy technology companies in the state can develop groundbreaking processes and insights that further the mission of the energy industry.
The most recent development to come of these beneficial partnerships merged the state’s expansive roadway system with a sustainable energy initiative to support two of the state’s key organizations: the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The Ray C. Anderson Foundation honors the legacy of Interface founder Ray C. Anderson by advancing knowledge and innovation around environmental stewardship and sustainability. Its purpose is to create a better world for future generations by encouraging businesses to “do well by doing good.” As part of this purpose, it embarked on a mission to develop a regenerative highway ecosystem that became the world’s first sustainable highway.
Georgia has long been recognized as a top state for conducting business due to its unparalleled accessibility and roadway infrastructure. The state boasts 20,000 miles of roadways and 1,200 miles of interstate highways currently, and stands to grow further with an approved $14 billion budget for funding new roadway infrastructure. The Georgia Department of Transportation is the steward of these opportunities and plans, constructing and maintaining Georgia’s state and federal highways.
A new partnership was formed that included the Center of Innovation for Energy Technology, GDOT, and the Ray C. Anderson foundation create what is now known as The Ray. As a part of this partnership, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation sought out an organization with the appropriate technology to support their initiative. COLAS is a French company and world leader in transport infrastructure, aiming to meet the challenges of mobility, urban development and environmental protection. One of its innovative technologies, the Wattway, uses a system of solar panels installed on the surface of a road to generate energy from the sun. The thin, heavy-duty, skid-resistant photovoltaic panels can be applied directly over existing paving, eliminating the need to remodel or build new road infrastructure.
WheelRight is a privately owned company from the U.K. with an innovative tire pressure monitoring system that measures tread depth, tire pressure, and overall health of a vehicle’s tires through sensor plates. Under-inflated tires put strain on the sidewalls, increase rolling resistance and increase the wear rate. They are also dangerous and reduce fuel efficiency, which is not helpful for the environment.
As part of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), the Center of Innovation for Energy Technology is dedicated to embracing and growing all aspects of energy technology for the state of Georgia. It helped facilitate this public, private, and philanthropic partnership to embark on a revolutionary environmental experiment.
Located on the Ray Anderson Highway, the partners decided the Visitors Information Center in West Point would make the ideal location for their vision of a sustainable highway to materialize. On average, west Georgia has 214 sunny days annually, meaning the area can potentially benefit from solar power for 60% of the year. The location is just past the Georgia-Alabama line and was deemed the ideal place to create a regenerative highway ecosystem.
The Ray came to life in December 2016 with interconnected technologies including solar powered vehicle charging, a solar-paved highway, and tire safety check station to improve fuel efficiency.
The Ray is the first partner outside of France to beta test Wattway by Colas’ groundbreaking drive-over solar panel technology. The technology itself was perfect for the state, which has one of the most developed roadway systems in the country. As the testing ground for Wattway’s pilot project in the U.S., the Ray includes drive-over solar panels that are safe and durable for traffic while providing renewable energy in the form of electricity to power everything from public lighting and road signals to bike paths, shopping centers and electric vehicle charging stations.
The roll-over WheelRight Tire Pressure Monitoring System is the first publicly available installation of the tire safety system anywhere in the world. With the system, results of tire pressure and tread depth measurements are provided automatically on all tires within seconds via a touch-sensitive kiosk that sends drivers a text message with critical information about their tire pressure.
Through this public, private, and philanthropic partnership, The Ray will soon host a highway solar farm capable of generating one megawatt of energy, breaking ground as the first state-owned and maintained right-of-way to generate renewable energy in Georgia.
It takes a trusting partnership, vision for change, and innovative leadership to utilize state-owned and operated buildings and land to test and validate breakthrough technologies in the areas of energy, transportation and road safety. The Ray is an inspiring example of how partners from around the globe can work together using emerging technologies to provide a cleaner, better future for Georgia’s drivers.