Attenuating noise and amplifying the use of space: A case for PV noise barriers

April 14, 2022 | Case Study

Noise pollution is a topic that is shoved to the bottom of our priority list due to an already vast set of problems we face today pursuing sustainability. While we acknowledge it exists, we live in oblivion despite being aware of the long-term health problems it causes. A report from the European Environmental Agency cites environmental noise, particularly noise due to traffic, as the most significant contributor to noise pollution in Europe. As the number of vehicles on the road keeps rising daily, people will be exposed to louder traffic noise or noise for longer durations. In the U.S. alone, the fraction of the population exposed to road traffic noise went up by 13.2% from 2016 to 2018. To block noise from traffic, tall noise barriers on highways are a common feature to isolate residential areas close to highways. One innovation in noise barriers involves the addition of solar panels onto the barrier in different configurations to generate energy concurrently; a concept called solar or photovoltaic noise barrier (PVNB). Since 1989, several countries have piloted PVNBs on highways; the U.S. joined this group in 2022 when the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) disclosed that it had approved the United States' first highway PVNB.

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