The Highways Agency has engaged three suppliers to produce photovoltaic noise barriers (PVNBs) that can be tested in live trials.
The trials focus on the M40 motorway initially. The aim is to install PVNBs on the M40 at locations between Loudwater (junction 3) and Wheatley (junction 8). If successful, they could be rolled out on future projects, the agency said.
The hope is that production and installation costs can be offset by generating electricity.
The Highways Agency is working in partnership with the M40 Chiltern Environmental Group (M40CEG), Wycombe District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council to support product developments.
The project will run in three phases. The first phase is a feasibility study where suppliers have been invited to submit outline proposals. Entrants whose outline designs best meet the brief will next be invited to prepare submissions for approval in principal and then detailed design. The final phase will be to construct a prototype. The goal is to install the first barrier in 2016.
Highways Agency chief highway engineer Mike Wilson said: “We’re really excited about this process; there is a real opportunity here to do something differently and better. We have noise barriers on our network and solar powered signs but to combine the two would be a first in England.
“We have invited our Transport Related Engineering Advice & Research framework suppliers to use their in-house resources to run a competition and engage with their supply chain and seek out new innovative companies in order to identify the best solutions for renewable energy noise barriers.
“Our objective is to develop cost effective noise barriers to improve community quality of life through reduced road traffic noise. We also want to develop designs that achieve this through low carbon energy production which could be used or exported.”
Councillor Jean Teesdale from Wycombe District Council said: “This is a fantastic example of the power of people all working together to find a new way to solve an old problem. As the local council, we’ve listened to, and acted on, the concerns of our local residents who are affected by motorway noise. After working closely with local campaign group M40CEG, we are really excited that the Highways Agency not only shares our vision but is now working on detailed feasibility work to combine noise reduction with renewable energy on our local stretch of the M40.”