A Solar Serpent in Santa Monica?

Nov 4, 2010· 0 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
The Santa Monica Freeway, swallowed by a solar serpent. (Photo: Mans Tham)

A full embrace of sustainable infrastructure requires more than just the construction of new green buildings—also essential is retrofitting of existing buildings, bridges, tunnels and highways.

Yes, highways.

How, you might wonder, does somebody retrofit a highway? By encasing it in a serpent-like solar skin.

If Swedish architect Mans Tham’s solar canopy concept ever sees the light of day, Southern California’s Santa Monica Freeway, known to locals as "the 10," will be swathed in 237 acres of solar panels.

"With Los Angeles County having 800 kilometers of freeways—public land with existing points of access for maintenance—why not use some of them for the location of a large scale solar installation?” said Tham to Curbed Los Angeles.

Inside the belly of the beast. (Photo: Mans Tham)

Perks from the project, dubbed "Solar Serpents in Paradise," include:

—150 gigawatt hours of energy for the local population, enough to power the city of Venice, California, year round.

—reduced noise pollution (the skin acts as a sound buffer).

—electric car charging stations underneath the highway.

—a mechanism by which exhaust fumes from vehicles are captured and converted into algae fuel on the side of the freeway.