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MassDOT OKs plan to outfit noise barrier with solar panels

The solar system is expected to generate 802,000 kWh annually, or enough energy to power 120 homes according to the state agency.

This artist's rendering shows what the panels on the noise barrier might look like. Courtesy/MassDOT

Massachusetts could become the first region in the western hemisphere to put solar panels on a highway noise barrier, according to a statement from MassDOT.

The state agency signed on to try a solar Photovoltaic Noise Barrier or, PVNB, along Interstate 95 in Lexington.

The project involves retrofitting an existing noise barrier on Route 128 with solar panels. Threes companies — Massachusetts-based Solect Energy, Ko-Solar, and PowerOptions — partnered with MassDOT on the initiative.

Solect Energy will finance, install, monitor, and maintain the project, according to the statement.

MassDOT plans to monitor the venture — including information about noise impacts, maintenance, cost, and community perception — to see if it can be expanded to other parts of the state.

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According to the statement, MassDOT vetted about two dozen potential sites for the panels before choosing Lexington.

The noise barrier, located on the north side of the highway, is 3,000 feet long, 20 feet tall, and is constructed of reinforced concrete.

The solar system is expected to generate 802,000 kWh annually, according to MassDOT. This represents the equivalent of supplying 120 homes per year with electricity and will avoid roughly 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the statement.

MassDOT solicited input on the plan from abutters and other Lexington residents through letters and meetings.

The state agency held a referendum for abutters, and there was unanimous support, according to the statement.

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