Electric charging stations, other facilities envisioned

Map from WSDOT website.
PULLMAN – Facilities along the country’s first electric highway are being designed by a group of WSU architecture and construction management students.
The project is inspired by a recent initiative by the state departments of transportation (WSDOT) and commerce to be part of the first electric highway in the U.S.
The highway would include charging stations for electric vehicles every 80 miles along Interstate-5 from Vancouver, B.C., to Mexico. The first stage of the WSDOT project will begin in early 2011 when medium speed chargers are installed at two rest areas in Washington, one near Bellingham and the other near Vancouver.
Funding is provided by the state commerce department with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars administered through the State Energy Program.
Facilities tailored to regions, energy sources
The WSU students are working to design facilities that will be needed along the highway for electricity generation. At the same time, they are designing similar facilities for future green highways throughout the U.S.
“They’re figuring out what is appropriate for each region,” said Robert Barnstone, associate professor in the School of Architecture and Construction Management, “For example, the Midwest will use wind energy and the Northwest will focus on hydro-electric energy.”
Barnstone believes that electric highways will become a reality in the near future because the relatively low cost of electricity makes such projects affordable.
“Even if we were to say it takes one-sixth the amount of money to run it (compared to gasoline) then that would mean there’s five-sixths left over,” Barnstone said. “That would be enough to build the entire infrastructure within a year.”
Solar panels set in cloverleafs
The students are looking at various forms of energy to run the highway. Some of the generators the students are focusing on are solar panels, wind and wave turbines, geothermal, and carbon batteries.
Jamie Armintrout, a sophomore construction management major, designed a plan for a cloverleaf interchange.
“I feel those areas are pretty barren, so I decided to place solar panels in those sections to gather energy and transport it straight to the highway in the electrical grid,” she said.
Armintrout also designed a sustainable residential area for employees working on highway maintenance and a port terminal that utilizes a solar awning.
Ideas to fuel the future
Though students could employ any and all technologies, they also had to be realistic, said architecture student Nicolas Linton.
“All the systems are out there,” he said. “We just need some sort of big overlying movement with mass funding and politics to make it a reality.”
While the student projects end with the semester, Barnstone hopes the ideas become part of future green highways.
“What we’re really doing is producing … a resource to those interested in promoting ideas about how our future may look and function,” he said.

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