JEFFERSON CITY - Every winter, the Missouri Department of Transportation uses considerable amounts of labor, salt and other chemicals to remove snow and ice from the state's roads and bridges. Now MoDOT will become one of the first agencies in the nation to turn to solar energy in an effort to prevent the buildup of snow and ice on bridge decks.
MoDOT has entered into a contract with Pave Guard Technologies, Inc., of Lee's Summit to install a "solar warming system" on two bridges on either side of Excelsior Springs in Clay and Ray counties. Both are on Route 10 - one to the east of Excelsior Springs over Route 69 and one to the west over the Fishing River. The two bridges are scheduled for deck replacements in 2010 as part of MoDOT's "Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program" that is repairing or replacing 802 of the state's worst bridges by the end of 2013.
The warming system developed by Pave Guard's Corey McDonald operates much like radiant heating works in a home's floor. Tubing is installed in the bridge deck, through which a heated solution is pumped to keep the deck from freezing. The energy to heat the solution is provided by solar panels mounted near the bridge site. Excess energy produced by the panels when the heating system is not in use can be sold back to local utilities.
"Water and the chemicals used to melt ice and snow are a bridge's biggest enemies," State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman said. "If we can find a cost effective way to keep a bridge clear without using chemicals we can extend its life."
The bridges will be put out for bids in February, with construction scheduled between April-August 2010. The Pave Guard systems are to be operable by November 2010. MoDOT will evaluate the performance of the systems before making a decision on whether to install more of them on other bridges.
Editor's note: Audio and video soundbites from State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman can be found at www.modot.org/newsroom. More information on the solar technology can be found at http://www.paveguardtech.com/.