The Sacramento Municipal Utility District pulled the plug on its \u201csolar highways\u201d project. It would have been among the first in the nation to string photovoltaic panels alongside a freeway. \u201cIt\u2019s a cancellation of our current effort,\u201d Jim Shetler, SMUD\u2019s assistant general manager of energy supply, explained. \u201cIt shouldn\u2019t be read as we\u2019re walking away from solar highways as a viable option for the long term, but we do need to regroup.\u201d The primary reason for that, according to the muni, is that only one contractor bid on the project. \u201cThe bid we got was high,\u201d Shetler revealed, \u201chigher than we were prepared to pay for solar energy.\u201d The solar highway project would have consisted of photovoltaic panels placed parallel to two stretches of U.S. Highway 50 about six miles apart from one another to generate about 1.4 MW of solar energy--enough to power about 250 homes. Two distinct photovoltaic technologies were proposed for the project: traditional flat-plate photovoltaic arrays, which would have been placed in the East Sacramento location, and an array of sun-tracking photovoltaic panels along the freeway\u2019s Mather Field Interchange section. The utility estimated the cost at $8.5 million to $9 million to build, but Shetler said the one bid, which was from a private developer, far exceeded that amount. A $1.5 million Department of Energy grant for the project was granted, and SMUD is in discussions with DOE over reallocating the money to other projects, according to the muni. SMUD has spent about $600,000 on the project to date, according to utility spokesperson Dace Udris, mainly on a feasibility study, California Environmental Quality Act analysis, real estate appraisal, licensing, and other prep work. If it had been constructed, the solar highways project would have been the first of its kind in the state and second in the nation. The first such project in the nation was a 104 kW array that began operations in December 2008. It remains to be seen whether SMUD\u2019s solar highways shut down slows the overall growth of statewide photovoltaic development. In July, the same bidder on the SMUD project, Republic Solar, announced a proposal to build a 15 MW solar array pilot project on 65 acres along a 20-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 from Gilroy to San Jose. The company says its sole focus is developing commercial photovoltaic generation systems on properties owned by the state and regional and local governments and selling the power to local investor-owned utilities. Republic Solar president Michael Van Every said the Santa Clara County project might be built by the end of 2012, though regulatory hoops remain. The company has set its sights high; it plans to expand the concept throughout the state and elsewhere in the U.S. if the pilot project works out. Meanwhile, Shetler says that SMUD hasn\u2019t closed the door on building its solar highway project, but needs to review its concept to figure out why it only received one bid and why that bid was excessive. \u201cI can\u2019t tell you I know when we would try to move forward with another one, but we are not ruling it out,\u201d he said.