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?
I wonder how much money is going to be spent and wasted on what is a complete and utter folly.
There is only one response thus far that realises that this concept is fundamentally stupid.
Having said that there are plenty more where this came.
Hint: Do the maths !
I've read through the article and I've checked out the website for these panels. Although the concept is interesting, there are a couple of things that don't really seem to be explained very well. For one thing its stated that every panel will store energy. What kind of battery are they planning to use and how expensive will they be. The battery's that they are planning on using for the new electric cars are bulky and very expensive. Also, if they're planning on decentralizing the electric grid with these panels, they're going to have a couple of hurdles to jump through. Every area has different load characteristics and cycles. This means that different places are going to need more power than other places. To deal with higher loads now, energy companies install larger and thicker cables. Most of the time, depending on the area these cables are upgraded every 5 to 10 years. Unless the panels have a way of dealing with increasing load, they will burn out once a new apartment building or factory in built in an already dense area. Although the concept for these panels is a good one, there are a lot of obstacles to face before they become feasable.
It will NEVER be feasible.
Think about the underlying physics and the fundamentals. This is yet another classic clase of 'its works in the lab and all we have to do is scale it up and we are rich'.
This is then followed by getting some mugs to invest and perhaps someone with a suitable qualification to add a bit of credibility and the gravy train sets off once more.
There are three fundamentals that should be properly established right up front. In this folly two are missing.
The fundamentals are not a secret. It isnt rocket science and they can be calculated in about 5 minutes. No computer required. So for the sake of doing 5 minutes of maths right at the outset something as stupid as this concept starts to look interesting to the ignorant.
<strike> well then </strike>
His glass must be half empty...
Actually, work is already being done with converting heat from roads into power. The piezoelectric idea ought to work as well: Japan has an airport terminal whose power needs are supplied by piezoelectric floors that harvest the pedestrian's foot pressure.
If I told you you wouldnt have learned a thing.
Now if you did the maths or found out by yourself how to do them, then you would. It would empower you be able make bold and seemingly arrogant statements, similar to those I posted earlier AND you would be able to stand your ground.
What appears to be a good idea nearly always isnt. It only requires enough in the way of cool sound bites and tecno rubbish to sound plausible.
The concept has no merit.
I dont have to prove anything to anyone here. It is up the those who put forward a concept for consideration to do the proving.
I'll not be holding my breath waiting as far as this concept goes.
I will however give you one teenie weenie hint. Why do you think static solar panels point towards towards where the sun will be at noon ??
The answer to above should cause you to ask further questions. Dont cheat ! Dont just go and read someone elses answer. Find out WHY.
If you need further clues I will post them.
Re the airport in Japan.
The power need of the terminal are NOT met by peizo-electric floor.
Is this forum meant for children ?
Do you have any idea just how much electricity it takes to run an airport terminal ?
More importantly do you have idea what the conversion efficiency is of Peizo when converting mechanical energy into electricty ? I wont bother raising the question of how much 'extra' energy is floating around by virtue of a human walking. I will give you a clue: it is tiny !
When you know the answer to the two FUNDAMENTAL questions I have asked you will then understand why an airport terminal will NEVER use what you have been mislead into believing it does to meet its needs.
Extracting energy from moving cars through "magnetism" will not slow down a vehicle. If a magnet moves along a path and goes through a copper wire loop a current is induced perpendicular to all sides of the magnet, which will not slow down the magnet. Though a copper wire loop isn't to practical, I'm sure other designs are plausible
Maths is not a word. It's math.
The regulars on this site will probably be wondering who the hell I am. I am one of two. We seem to be drawn to bad science and unfortunately an ever increaing waste of money, yours and mine.
No one picked up on the really big clue that is in the press release. It sticks out like a sore thumb. It is a classic bit of techno rubbish and is in fact meaningless.
The second paragraph should have made alarm bells ring.
The claim is each 12f X 12f panel can generate up to 7.6KWH per day. This statement doesnt hold water. It implies that the output is around a constant 7.6kw and that is absurd. How come no one else spotted this, including the person who santioned a nice juicy $100k grant.
For fun lets say the peak output, assuming the panel in the road is pointing directly at the sun at midday and there are no vehicles on the road at the time; a clear field of view, then each square foot of solar panel kicks out 52.77 watts. This is peak output under optimum conditions.
The optimum condition only exists for a very short period of time in one year. By that I mean a few MINUTES.
Outside that small time window there are little things like darkness and the little matter of the sun being lower in the horizon but the panel is fixed. In other words the claimed output does not and will not exist in reality.
So what sort of output could we reasonable expect and how would THAT little gem of information affect the viability of this folly ? Try something in the order of about 10% or less. It is perfectly possible to calculate EXACTLY what the total output would be over say a 1 year period but that wont have been done. The reason is had those numbers been known before the $100k was handed over there might be implications. The figures will come to light down the road but only after a lot more money has been wasted.
I apologise for my gate crashing and arrogance. We actually care !
I'm going to drive my hover car over this road.
That is complete and utter rubbish.
A moving car has kinetic energy. Place a large magnet in it and pass the car through coil. Thanks to Mr Faraday we know that electricity will flow in the coil and this will cause the car to slow down.
The prinipcle is used already. It is called regenerative braking.
I take it you havent heard of back EMF ?
I agree the glass panels are a joke...
embedding copper wire in roadways... with permanent magnets in vehicle undercarriages, they would have to be seriously strong magnets, or very close to the road surface... but, that idea is the best yet for retrieving energy from roadways.
Which roadways? Inner city or interstate? Where will the copper come from? What are the environmental effects of mining enough copper to go into roads? How about the viability of retrieving copper from roadways that are being repaired?
Are solar panels based solely on visible light? Might other wavelengths give a higher energy return?
Why on earth would you want to try and recover kinetic energy from a moving vehicle. It makes so sense in phsyics at all other than to slow it down ?
Gas/Petrol is full of potential energy and modern engines are very efficient indeed. Nothing but nothing comes even close except nuclear.
There simply isnt an easy fix to the fuel problem. There are solutions and there are so called solutions.
I don't think you understood what I wrote.
Cars move by use of liquid or electrical energy... their movement over the roadway, coupled with magnets and copper, just like any generator, would generate power from the magnets passing over the copper wire...
Did you think i meant, electrify the copper to move the magnets in the cars? LOOOOOOOOOOOOOL, that'd take more energy to do than we ever dreamed of.
But cars, hundreds of millions of them, are not adding to the grid's power, if even the cities' roadways were wired to be energized by magnets in vehicles, wouldn't that offset the amount of fuel power plants would need to burn?
Like I said, you havent heard of back EMF have you?
You also havent heard of a linear motor either it seems :)
In answer to your last queation, NO !
Hey ya spelled my name correctly, congrats.
While you're here swinging your obviously large and useful brain around, maybe you could try less of a browbeating technique for your conversational additives.
In other words, if you can't say anything nice, just stfu.
Good teachers rarely condescend to those they're attempting to teach. But occasionally a smart ass comes along and makes those who are trying to think critically regret conversing in the first place.
Typing with prostetic hands isnt easy so apologies for the typos.
As yet no one has challenged the logic or the physics of what I have stated. So far I have managed to make a couple of you react in a totally predictable manner. You feel threatened because someone you dont know actually does know things you dont.
Im not here to teach. This site is but one of thousands.
You can continue to believe what you do but the world is round not flat. Everything I have posted can be verified using basic physics and maths that have been known for well over a century. It is taught in schools worldwide but soon forgotten. Enough is retained so that techno sound bites have a ring of truth about them.
The result is that far as 'green energy' is concerned HUGE sums of money are being wasted on follies.
If my contribution causes just some of you to stop and think and even better take the trouble to check out what makes a concept have merit as supposed to accepting at face value press releases then that will be something.
I have pointed out that the concept of solar roads is fundamentally flawed. I have indicated this without going into great detail why this is. My responses to other mooted concepts have not been challenged on a technical level either.
You are defending your space. I ask the question given what I have witnessed thus far as to the contents, why bother ?
What a dumb concept. Solar is barely cost effective when sited at proper angles and stable environments. Putting them into road surfaces where the constant wear and grime will reduce the solar radiation reaching the cells makes no sense.
The same cells would be more efficient in rooftops, exterior walls, and other situations where surface scratching wouldn't be a daily occurrence.
I can't think of any instance where I've felt threatened by someone else's knowledge on a subject.
Having prosthetic hands doesn't affect your proofreading skills, does it?
Having a prosthetic leg doesn't affect my cooking skills....
From what I gather about back emf, is, any magnet that induces a charge in a coil, gets feedback from the coil, in effect, the charge affects the magnet, causing it to slow. Am I right?
How much would a charge in a coil slow a vehicle with a magnet moving at highway speeds?
There are plenty of high schools that don't teach physics and electrical theory such as we're discussing, many of us have chosen to educate ourselves without formal schooling. Talking down to people rarely accomplishes anything.
"So far I have managed to make a couple of you react in a totally predictable manner." Why do you choose to behave this way?
UKELITE seems to be one of the few people here who have a smidgen of a clue about reality... physics and math.
Anyways as someone who actually works for an engineering firm that designs and installs PV systems, all I can say is this story sounds like a whole lotta pie in the sky. Really folks as UKELITE says do the math! If you can't then please just shut up.
I dont know of many schools that dont teach BASIC physics and maths. There are none in the UK.
Science is science whether taught in a school or not.
To answer the question you asked, you need to understand Newton's 3rd Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite action.
Since energy cannot be created or destroyed (which is another fundamental) what you can do with it has limitations and consequences. You can covert one form on energy to another but ALWAYS there has to be a balance. This causes problems.
For example you want to make something hot using electricity. How to do this is well known and understood; no problem. But in doing so you incur losses. The energy lost hasnt gone; it manifests as something else instead. The losses may be light for example or they could be sound and so on.
In other words the conversation ratio between what you have and what you want to make is very important indeed and in between those two things you have some sort of gizmo.
In the mooted concept the gizmo is a solar panel enbedded in a road. Even if the solar panel was 100% efficient at converting even a lit candle two miles away into electricity there are a lot more losses in play. The current generated in the panel is DC. To connect to the grid it has to be converted to AC. There are losses in doing this. Then the voltage has to be stepped up considerably from the starting point to 120. There are losses in doing this too.
Also in play is the storage device. It cannot be 100% efficient; it is a chemical reaction that degrades over time too. Therefore there are losses there too. Then we have the conductors running from the panels to the batteries then onto the grid. These have electrical resistance and there will be losses there as well.
All of this above is known.
The output of even the state of the art solar panels is known, as is what happens to the output of a solar panel when not in the optimum position; it falls off a cliff.
I havent touched on all the other signficant issues as given the fundamentals, the concept has zero merit.
The problem is that enough people believe that is has. The belief is NOT based on knowledge but from the little snippets they do remember from school. People tend to trust their knowledge and have a bit of problem coming to terms that it isnt as robust as perhaps it might be.
That is why you have reacted towards me in the way you have. It was predictable. Having said that I was being provacative deliberately.
You didnt come up with the concept and you are not to blame. You read the press release and thought it might have some merit and because of that and the fact that you are on home turf, you defended it against a total stranger who attacked it.
The problems facing this planet in terms of energy needs is immense. Every man and his dog has an idea how to resolve it. Only a slack handful actually have the faintest idea about how it can be done but millions of others will be suckered into believing or investing or supporting in some way the cranks.
We like to think that there is a quick fix that science will trip over, almost by accident. It wont happen. The fundamentals were worked out long ago and they stand now and will in the future. These fundamentals are watered down and ignored. There is a sort of blind faith amongst many that all we have to do is something along the lines of the mooted concept.
The biggest problem of all is the reality that without nuclear power (which isnt my preferred option), the remaining options are not exactly tree hugging either; our lifestyles will change dramatically and that is motivating people to come up with basically stupid ideas and concepts. Instead of clutching at straws we should get down to the basics. If you do that you realise just what is facing us all, perhaps not in our life term but almost certainly before the 22nd Century.
Like I said, I care.
I have to now admit I am at a loss as to why you went and looked up all the figures you did.
Why one earth would you want to put any solar panel flat on its back ? More importantly place it between rails ?
Lets for the moment work on the premise that this is a good idea. The space between the tracks is X. There are little things that support the tracks called sleepers. They remove at a stroke about 25% of the available surface area available. Then we have the height of the rails above the panel which we will call Y
Assuming the rails run north to south only you could calculate in about 10 seconds flat the window that the sum shines on the panel. To save you the effort it is less than 30 minutes.
Outside of that window only part of the panel gets direct sunlight and for about 3 hours a day the panel will get none.
There are several more reasons I could give you as to why this wont work in reality but what I have just done to your concept took as long as it did with the solar panels in the road.
Please note Im not trying to be a smart a**e here or cause you to stop creative thought.
To get the most from a solar panel it MUST track the sun from dawn to dusk and it HAS to compensate for the change in the height of the sun over the horizon. In winter it tracks low, in summer high.
These exist and are close to the best that all known science is capable of in this area of physics. The split second you stop a panel from being able to track you are going backwards in terms of science and technology.
The fundamental problem with solar is the same as wind; storage.
There is another aspect to solar power that has to be taken on board. That is the energy required to make one. When you crunch those numbers you realise that as an option in meeting out needs, the prospects are even less rosy.
I did not support the panels in the road idea, solar roads is stupidity. I went along with the other fellow who suggested using cars with magnets to energize a copper coil in the road.
I'm all for tree hugging. I wouldn't have much of an issue with living in tipis and hunting for food, so long as I was relatively safe and secure doing so. Natives did it for 10s of thousands of years, all over the planet. It's when mankind builds cities and starts raping the land for resources that we get into trouble.
No animal that destroys its own environment survives long, that I know of.
Each and everyone of the naysayers is missing the point of Solar Roads' idea- if, and this is the if they are exploring, they can implement this type of roadway for a similar cost of a cement or asphalt road, then ANY energy that can be generated is all gravy! This idea is analagous to those companies developing solar panels that can be integrated into building materials, whether roofing, siding or even paint- even if they are a lot less efficient than tradition PV panels, they may prove to be a whole lot cheaper. In the same way, if we could build roads out of solar panels, even if grossly inefficient compared to PV panels, or shoot, even compared to other forms of energy generation, the energy from a solar road may still be much, much cheaper than other forms. Roads, all roads, have to be redone every few years- if Solar Roads, and that is a big if, can produce a road that costs the same to install, or costs the same over time if it lasts longer, they will have a huge winner on their hands. The concept is certainly worth the measely few dollars, comparatively speaking, to develop and test.
you have to offset the energy any road might itself make, with the energy needed to produce it from base materials.
While UKELITE has a rather nasty conversational manner at times, his physics is spot on.
Turning a car & roadway into a linear generator is a really poor way to convert gasoline to electricity. Its one of those ideas that is great for a brainstorming session, and one of the first ideas to get tossed out once you consider basic physics.
For those of you interested in physics, but without any formal education, allow me to recommend MIT's OpenCourseware. It is an amazing service MIT provides.
This idea isn't practical with current technology, but it could be in the near future. All of UKELITE's objections can be solved with a bit of technology and engineering.
For example, we now have edge-intensive flat panel solar concentrators that greatly reduce the need for sun tracking, as well as reduce the area of solar panels needed.
We actually could make an efficient "between the railroad tracks" solar collector in short order. I'm not interested in do the math to see if it would be feasible, but it could be done.
This will be my last post.
I urged all of you to go away and learn the basics. None of you thought that was a good idea. Those of you who still believe a solar road/rail track has merit even after being informed of just some of the fundamental problems are living on a different planet. I pointed out that the Laws of physics prevail, always.
I deliberately did not detail the one truly fundamemental that shows the concept for what it is. Had any of you done even a couple of minutes searching on the internet you would have found it. I dropped several hints.
Fact: There is a finite and known amount of energy that comes from the sun and lands on earth. This means the energy available per square foot, square inch or square mile etc is known. There is NOTHING that you or anyone will EVER be able to do to increase it.
When you know what that figure is you will very quickly realise the stupidiy of the concept. You cant produce a greater output than the input can you ?
You can pontificate till the cows come home, you will never change the Laws of Physics.
You are members of this site because you and interested in science. You are young and still learning. You have an opportunity and it is a golden one.
There is a branch of physics that is challenging to understand. It isnt new but it really is VERY important. It is called thermal dynamics. Very few engineers/scientists these days know this subject.
In essence thermal dynamics allows you to calculate accurately things like the amount of energy available from a complex source. For example calculating the energy available inside a human body or the output of a heart. Another example is the energy available in moving water or air.
There are some short cut formula that can be used that will provide a reasonable estimate or you can cheat and look the data up. Either way, once armed with the knowledge you can rip apart stupid concepts. However doing so doesnt bring solutions any closer. To create VIABLE solutions that add up and can withstand peer scrutiny you need to understand all the underlying physics.
From time to time (becoming more frequent) ideas are mooted and gain traction. Many of these are fundamentally flawed because no one did the up front number crunch. Universities go on wild goose chases all the time. It is how professors live and it goes on world wide. I will give you one example of this and money is still being wasted to this day.
A company in California was created out of an idea that came from a university. The concept was to use human motion to recharge batteries carried by soldiers. It is basically Faraday's principle. It is possible to generate small amounts and this is all that was required to sucker millions from governement and investors alike. It will NEVER achieve its goal for one simple reason: The input energy does not exist. The scientists believe it does but they havent done their homework.
A similar venture has just been given 2 years funding in the UK but they are going to use peizo generators instead. This too is complete and utter folly.
How do I know this to be so ? The answer to that is easy. We have crunched the numbers. I am the co-inventor of a highly efficient generator that can be made very small or very big. We were asked by medical scientists to determine if our technology could be used to convert blood pressure/flow into enough electricity to keep a heart pacemaker charged. We knew how much current a pacemaker needs (and it is very small indeed) and we know the efficiency of our generator. However until we established what is called the 'work available' we didnt know. I can tell you that the work available was about 10% of what is required. The concept is dead in the water.
Using the human body as an engine to drive a generator is foolishness. It is OK for say winding up a torch but thats about it.
Finally I will leave you with another fact that puts into context the huge problem facing this planet. You should all know that 1 horsepower equals about 750 watts. Those figures dont really mean anything; they are very hard to visualise. Fortunately someone has saved us the trouble.
1 Horse Power = 3,300 gallons of water raised a height of 1 foot in 1 minute. Those are figures you can relate to.
The lesson here is that a HUGE volume of water has to flow to create a meaningful amount of electricity. For fun work out how much energy is available when you empty your bath. Please note that energy was required to fill the bath in the first place so dont get any bright ideas. It is possible to recover the energy but when you crunch the numbers you will see that it is very little.
Im 53 years old. 4 years ago I asked a stupid question regarding how much electricity could be produced from rainwater running off a house roof. The answer showed that even if every drop was converted with 100% efficiency there would only be enough over a one year period to charge a mobile phone about half a dozen times. That was far less than I have envisaged and obviously doing this is not worth the costs involved. The reason I mention this is that the means we were going to use to convert the water to electricity was novel (we didnt know that at the time) Now there are world wide patents pending. The same technology when inverted creates a superbly efficient electric motor, up to and beyond 99% when optimised. The only losses are from the bearings.
I hope that you have learned something that will be useful to you.
The best of luck to all of you for the future
Now that the rude, pompous, arrogant, part-cyborg net bully UKELITE has promised never to post here again, we may continue.
Sorry was not an airport as I wrote before, it was a train station that was testing the piezoelectric paving system. It's not 'robbing' energy from the pedestrians, it is harvesting wasted energy in the compression of the pavement under many feet. And the system works. And they DO anticipate meeting all of their elcetric needs from this. If UKELITE has a problem with this, he needs to leave off calling me stupid, and go lecture the source. I am sure they will appreciate it.
Others are investigating piezoelectric roadways. Any of these makes more sense than a solar road.
UKELITE said it was not solar roads were not feasible. I check and at the moment the best solar cell money can buy have a conversion rate of about 30%. So only 30% of the suns ray are converted into usable electricity.
I also know that some folks are looking at creating solor cell made out of synthetic chlorophyll that would have a conversion rate of close to 100% at noon around the equator.
Combine those cells with another product that other folks are creating. It's a material based on plants that let water and dirt slide off (sorry I no not have a current link). That way dirt would not be a factor if you put those cells on a roof top.
So UKELITE might be right in saying that currently solar power is not efficient enough for our needs. He never gave us his math so I tend to be skeptical. What about in 20 years?