The Department of Energy just gave $100,000 to upstart company Solar Roadways, to develop 12-by-12-foot solar panels, dubbed "Solar Roads," that can be embedded into roads, pumping power into the grid. The panels may also feature LED road warnings and built-in heating elements that could prevent roads from freezing.
Each Solar Road panel can develop around 7.6 kwh of power each day, and each costs around $7,000. If widely adopted, they could realistically wean the US off fossil fuels: a mile-long stretch of four-lane highway could take 500 homes off the grid. If the entire US Interstate system made use of the panels, energy would no longer be a concern for the country.
In addition, every Solar Road panel has its own microprocessor and energy management system, so if one gives out, the rest are not borked. Materials-wise, the top layer is described as translucent and high-strength. Inhabitat says it's glass, which seems odd, especially since Solar Roadways claims the surface provides excellent traction. The base layer under the solar panel routes the power, as well as data utilities (TV, phone, Internet) to homes and power companies.
Still, this is a ways away from actual implementation, seeing as a prototype has yet to be built. But we can be excited, right?
Great idea! They should also consider generating energy from the motion of panels as the vehicles are moving.
That is a great idea! I like how they could change the width of lanes dynamically. Dynamic carpool lanes or closed lanes too. Amber alerts in the road? Would some form of energy be possible from the cars moving using magnetism?
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Found a FAQ
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I wonder how they will handle defense questions related to EMP attacks?
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To Mr. Joel Sequin,
Extracting any energy from cars moving by is not a good idea...conservation of energy tells us this. Any power we are able to convert is provided via the vehicle's propulsion system. To extract any energy, a proportional load would be placed on the vehicle, which would cost more energy from the vehicles power source (and ultimately the grid, if it is an electric vehicle) than would be provided, due to the unavoidable (and in this case, I would estimate very high) inefficiency associated with such a process.
Well it's about goddamn time. This idea's been around for such a long time and has been waiting for someone to apply it. It's such an obvious asset as an energy source. More R&D funding into this should have been put up a long time ago.
Great idea on paper but the road system isn't built on paper. Durability, cost, light gathering efficiency, etc, etc, there is a lot of work to be done but all options should remain on the table like this one.
All it takes is just one stroke of genius to make illogical looking ideas work...
I have had this idea for years and years. The billions of flat paved roadways on this planet could create far more energy than we could ever need with only a fraction of those miles having these solar panels embedded in the road surface.
Applying this technology to the roads in the Midwest and south alone could easily power all of N. America and then some.
Such a novel concept. Add solar panels to existing flat surfaces, thus eliminating the need to dedicate vast swathes of land for solar farms. Everyone wins.
Only thing that would stink would having to run cleaning vehicles over all of the panels to maximize efficiency.
Can we implement tomorrow? Thanks government for using your collective brain for once and funding something that is actually extremely viable, and can be implemented almost immediately.
You wouldn't even have to dig roads up, just incorporate the technology into the roads as you do regular repair and resurfacing work.
I assume that the solar roads can take the same loads as a regular concrete road? I would hate to have a fully-loaded semi trashing these things.
Being able to turn the entire road surface into a display is a wonderful idea, if the lanes could be visible in strong sunlight. Road markings configurable as needed, what a concept!
It would also be better if the panels could be installed without the old road having to be completely torn up. I hope this works; sounds like a great idea.
Why don't they just use regular solar panels in the median strips of current highways? All that wasted space between opposite lanes on the interstates could be used for practical purpose. No new tech, just mile after mile of solar panels.
This sounds like a great idea - I really hope it is feasible and is implemented as soon as possible. Like many of you, I wonder about the durability of these roads - especially in the northern states, where freezing and thawing rip roads apart so easily. But, even if it isn't feasible in the north, we have so many southern highways, that it could be great.
AWESOME! Finally a way to get more cable companies in operation. If you send cable signal over the roads, you can get it anywhere you live.
I hope it works out.
That's going to take a lot of cleaning.
Now this is something I wouldn't mind this near my house. This is a really good idea. Especially the warning signs integrated into the road. This is good for drivers who can't see the road signs because of brush or tree branches. Problems are solved.
This would be AWESOME! If it can be done in an economically feasible way...Combine it with the technology they use here in Japan that creates electricity from the kinetic energy generated by people walking on specialized sidewalk tiles, and you get a double benefit!!
Simply awesome...let's get to work!!!!
Sounds like a Robert Heinlein idea from the 50s
surface is made of glass and has great traction...
WHEN ITS DRY!
This is a crappy idea. Roads get dirty. dirt blocks light.
If you have ever seen what a rock stuck in the tread of a semi- tire can do to concrete you would know that it would take glass so thick to stand up to the punishment of the road it couldn't let very much light through. Keeping the surface free of enough scratches to allow it to work efficiently would be a challenge.
What on earth is an idea like this doing in a science mag. Firstly of all you have the guy confusing solar energy with extracting energy from vehicles. It DOES say SOLAR energy. Secondly - even concrete cannot stand up for very long to regular road use - and so are these people going to do constant road repairs and at what cost? Thirdly, putting solar panels UNDER cars and trucks - what ARE they thinking about? Roads get filthy almost immediately in use. Wheels deposit rubber on the roads etc. This is just silly. I'm in Spain right now and they have massive solar farms ALONGSIDE the road on adjascent fields - that I can see...
As stated above I am apprehensive about this idea because they would be tearing up roads much more than they are doing today just to fix them. As other people alluded to alongside the road or in between the medians may be a better idea. Cleaning them may not be such a big issue a simple rainfall may clean most solar cells however not as good as washing them squeaky clean.
Usually in between the medium is used for storm drainage. I would prefer to install them in low traffic areas such as on the curb that way they will last longer than a few months.
Wouldn't it be a better idea to use all the heat from the dark tarmac for solar thermal power? This would be only usable for new roads and the yield should be lower, but afaik it would be a lot cheaper and require less maintenance.
Glass does have a high coefficient of friction so the claim that good traction would result is reasonable.
Glass does dull however due to abrasion, think about scratches on your windshield. This will reduce the efficiency of the devices. So the challenge is will these problems sufficiently reduce performance that the system would be uneconomical?
Otherwise good research. Except why grants? I would think putting down a test patch 1' X 1' would be a better use of money than a grant.
Well, as far as the top layer being made of glass, I was actually a bit surprised the author made the comment of traction. Or any negative comment for that matter. About 5 years ago PopSci had an article about bridges being built from glass and how the built-in fiber-optics would make it easier to detect damage. There was a similar article about US Army bridging vehicles using these lightweight glass bridges. Just because it's glass doesn't mean smooth and slippery. Glass can be made into several textures and weaves and still maintain a valuable translucent quality.
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This also does not take into account other abuses:
Tonight on COPS - police chace a pick-up truck. The spike sticks take out a tire. The truck drives on for two miles, sparks flying, digging a debilitating gash across the panals at $7,000 every 12 feet! They arrest one young punk for drunk driveing. Taxpayers cry in the streets.
This is an attempt to mitigate the cost of solar by tying it into public land (I don't want the government owning my power more than they already regulate it!) and by factoring against the cost of resurfacing an highway (I'm assuming these would be snaped together, plug and play style to a parrellel power line, like hardwood flooring panals).
I'm with the previous poster. Imbedding loops of thermal coil under a fresh layer of ashphalt during a resurface would be much cheaper to create/install and more durable, despite a lower output of energy (due to type of energy conversion as well as the tendency of ashphalt to grey-out over the years.
Solar still just isn't economically feasable. If space were the only issue, every roof would already be covered with them.
No more saying that humans do lots of nasty things in the road like chucking things. I think that no matter how much resisting will be this glass after a time it will break. A serious study must be done to see if costs of implementation and maintain of this system is reliable. I believe that it's not a very good idea, but it's an idea.
The concept sounds like a great idea, but I agree that glass sounds like too fragile a material to use as the surface material. You would need to have a material that is still transparent enough to let the light through, but can handle the weight of cars, trucks, and tractor trailers as well as be dirt resistant so that the light doesn't get blocked out. Solve these two problems, and you've got a winner. :-)
I would like to see how these panels are affected by heavy load like trucks, crap falling from them, accidents etc. :)
Why, instead of designing heavy duty solar panels, not to put cheaper panels on areas which are not affected by heavy loads, like roofs, pedestrian sidewalks, medians between the lanes etc? Тhere is plenty of space empty in any city.
Two words: Transparent Aluminum. Where's Scotty when you need him?
Solar powered street sweeper robots could clean dirt, debris, etc. off of the solar panels. The robot would repeatedly do the same programmed route each night by following sensors embedded in the panels. The robot would have to have flashing lights on it so it didn't get run over by a passing car. Then it parks it self back on a charging station (like a rhumba) and receives power from one of the solar panels.
(Maybe it would secretly put on a mask and fight crime at night as well :)