The Ray NextGen Highways Feasibility Study for MnDOT supports vehicle electrification


A NextGen Highways Feasibility Study for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) in the US has found that buried high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) transmission is cost-effective and can be feasibly sited in interstate and highway right-of-way (ROW).

The Ray, a nonprofit charity and net-zero highway testbed located in Georgia, and NGI Consulting co-led the NextGen Highways team to study the strategic co-location of electric and communications infrastructure in the highway ROW.

The NextGen Highways Feasibility Study, released by The Ray and NGI Consulting, focused on the potential deployment of buried HVDC transmission lines in Minnesota interstate and highway ROW. This is a first step for the NextGen Highways team as it works to reimagine the US highway system following the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021 and the federal government’s historic infrastructure investment.

“The findings from this study demonstrate that buried HVDC transmission is cost-effective and can be feasibly sited in interstate and highway ROW after making appropriate consideration for existing and future transportation system needs,” says Morgan Putnam, founder of NGI Consulting. “This means that our existing highway system can enable transportation and grid decarbonization and strengthen grid reliability and resilience – all while delivering billions of dollars in societal benefits.”

The NextGen Highways team worked with an internal working group at the MnDOT to explore opportunities and barriers associated with locating buried HVDC transmission within the highway ROW. Specifically, the NextGen Highways team and working group reviewed applicable policy, regulation and projects, analyzed MnDOT-specific concerns, examined HVDC transmission line requirements, and assessed buried HVDC cost and benefits.

“To support clean vehicle electrification, our existing transportation infrastructure will need to evolve to incorporate the infrastructure to power and connect these vehicles. This Feasibility Study demonstrates that states can use existing publicly-owned land to help solve our nation’s greatest and immediate challenges in the energy, transportation and communications sectors,” says Laura Rogers, deputy director of The Ray.

The Feasibility Study also found that the State of Wisconsin provides a good playbook for siting and building transmission in highway ROW. “Utilities and regulators in Wisconsin have successfully collaborated with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to place more than 800 miles of electric transmission infrastructure within and along state and interstate highway ROW over the last 20 years,” says Randy Satterfield of Satterfield Consulting. “Other states across the country now have the opportunity to do the same.”

The NextGen Highways team is planning to continue its work with MnDOT in 2022 and to launch a coalition of State DOTs, utilities and transmission developers to support the co-location of buried fiber and transmission in highway and interstate ROW.


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