Solar Roadways: Waste or Reality

You have to click on this video to get the full blast of excitement being generated by Scott and Julie Brusaw from their farm in Idaho.   The excitement generated over $2M at Indiegogo, one of its highest funded projects to date.  With the additional funding from the Federal Department of Transportation they have been able to make prototypes and hire academics to further research their idea.  The video alone has gotten16M hits.

The idea is great!  The reaction they are getting is great.  Or  not so great.  If you clicked on the video, you got a taste of the future without oil.  Its pretty wild to think that 18,641 miles of American roadways could solve our carbon problem, melt snow, warn us of danger, eliminate electric wires, make phone poles obsolete, remove street lights, fuel cars, and change surface designs according to our latest needs.

Add tarmacs, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, bikeways, playgrounds and anything else that is currently under asphalt and you have the capacity to produce ALOT of “free” renewable energy.

Welcome to the  Solar Roadways world.  A tempered glass surface covering LED lights and a solar panel generates sun produced electricity from every road in America.  Hexagonally shaped, interlocking pieces can cover any surface.  The independent sections make them easy to switch out if they need maintenance or repair.

Channels are required along the solar roadside to carry the wiring.  These channels could also carry and store electric wires, phone wires, electric outlets, cables, wires to light the roads, stop lights, and highway signs.  They could fuel electric cars and act as drains to direct water away from the road.

So, that’s great, right?!

The not-so-great responders argue that the output won’t be enough to fuel anything.  The installation and construction costs will, of course, be outrageous.  Its not safe to drive on glass.  The glass cannot carry required weight loads.  The light pollution will be too much in some areas.  The heating units need to be operational before snow covers the panels.  When it snows the sun is not out.  The roads are outside and the outside gets dirty.  Solar power needs to be stored to use later.  The angle of the lights won’t be visible while driving in daylight.  The surface is noisy.  Shade from cars in heavy or stopped traffic, trees along a country road, or city buildings will affect the entire string of solar panels.  The LEDs and heating elements are not connected to the photovoltaics so these elements require electricity from the grid 24/7.  The heaters alone require more power than the available photovoltaics in the hexagon can supply.

And on and on.  Sure!  The idea needs more research and testing.  Is this a false start or did solar roads actually get the spark  that inspires others to test these ideas and theories until they work?    Airplanes were once considered impossible, microchips are still hard to imagine, the world connected by 1s and 0s?

Check out what these guys are doing! http://electrical-engineering-portal.com/innovative-approach-to-maglev-trains-solar-energy

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Engineers in Amsterdam  all ready say their system is working better than expected while testing a 70-metre bike path that generated 3,000 kWh, or enough electricity to power a small household for a year.

Their panels were made for extreme durability supporting 12 ton fire trucks as opposed to the US version of 250 pound tractors.  Designed to last the same amount of time as rooftop solar panels, 20 years, the tests show only one fault with some of the protective coating delaminating in high temperature fluctuations.   Jan-Hendrik Kremer of Renewable Energy Systems, Imtech, Stan Klerks from TNO, the parent company of SolaRoad and their team of engineers are credited for the Netherlands getting on the solar road map first.  Using rows of crystalline silicon solar cells  embedded into the concrete of the path and covered by a thick, tempered glass, they coated the surface with a special non-adhesive and tilted it at an angle so the dust and dirt would not accumulate.

Design lab, Studio Roosegaarde, has created a solar bike path that lit up the night with a LED inspired Starry Starry Night.

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The opposing forces all have their own videos too https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mzzz5DdzyWY

In the meantime, Morocco and other sunny mid east cities have been perfecting solar thermal energy far longer than we have. Germany announced a record 78% of its energy needs are supplied by renewable sources.  Its time for us to embrace this.

How You Can Help:

  • Support the solar industry.
  • Lift your hat to everyone who comes up with new ideas, because even failed ideas have led to success.
  • Educate yourself on the realities of solar.   In 1972, the price of an average watt of solar power stood at $75.  In 2012, that dropped to less than $1 per watt. By 2015, solar modules from China are expected to run the consumer just 42 cents per watt. In 2016, solar power will be competitive with electricity from the conventional power grid in almost every U.S. state.
  • There are a number of reputable suppliers ready to get you started saving money and resources.

Until next week,    images-1

Garbage Girl

 

 

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