By on May 28, 2014
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Last week, an amazing video popped up on my Facebook feed. Produced by a small Idaho based startup seeking funding from the public via an IndieGoGo campaign, it offers a glimpse into a possible future where the roads are made out of reinforced glass panels that contain solar cells, microprocessors and LEDs. The company, Solar Roadways, has been working on this product for years and it has already attracted a considerable amount of attention from the tech community. Now, as it seeks money to hire a team of engineers to perfect and streamline the production process, it appears as though Solar Roadways is finally ready for the big time.

The proposal is simple in concept but the implications and the potential costs are vast. The best breakdown I found comes from Singularityhub.com who looked at the project in-depth back in August of 2010 and crunched all the numbers with a mathematical expertise I have no hope of matching. The long and short of it is this: If we were to replace the approximately 30,000 square miles of paved roads, sidewalks and parking lots in our nation with currently available commercial solar panels which offer about 18.5% efficiency, the project could generate approximately 14 billion kilowatts of energy – or about three times what the US currently generates each year. Replacing all our nation’s pavement, however, would require around 5.6 billion panels and, at a cost of around $10,000 per 12’X12’ section, could ultimately cost somewhere on the order of $56 trillion dollars. Factoring in longevity and repairs, Singularity hub’s mathematicians figure that Solar roadways will be about 50% more expensive than asphalt but admit the relative costs may change given improvements in solar technology or a spike in oil prices.

Hard numbers aside, the technology presented is pretty amazing. Tied into a computer network, the LED lighting incorporated into the system could be used for any number of purposes including variable lanes, speed limits, crosswalks, or written warnings. The video also shows how heating elements could be used to keep the roadways free of ice and snow year round, something that might actually ease the coming transition to self-driving cars. Just sitting here thinking about it, it occurs to me that it may even be possible to tie the network into an on-the-road charging network where cars’ batteries are charged as they pass over magnetic fields generated by the roadway itself. Who knows how else it might be used?

It would be easy to dismiss this Solar Roadways as just another hippie dippy, pie in the sky idea but there was a time when many people dismissed the cellular telephone, too. The network was virtually nonexistent and the phones themselves were outrageously expensive, but what seemed only marginally useful back then has transformed modern day society in ways we never imagined. Solar Roadways, it seems to me, could be another leap forward and, while the costs are huge, so too is the opportunity. I’d like to see this go forward.

Solar Roadways’ IndieGoGo campaign has far exceeded its rather modest million dollar goal, but will remain open until the end of the month.

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136 Comments on “Solar Roadways: A Modest Proposal?...”


  • avatar
    jmo

    http://cleantechnica.com/2013/05/24/solar-powers-massive-price-drop-graph/

    Cost per watt of solar in 1977? $76.67. In 2013? $0.74

    If the trend continues it could make sense to move in this direction.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you ever tried to walk on wet glass?

      Solar makes sense to me if we had photovoltaic windows on the sides of buildings, and photovoltaic rooftops – instead of tar paper, but roadways??? It’ll never stand up to the abuse of traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Right, because we don’t have the capacity to manufacture glass surfaces that aren’t flat. What were they thinking??

        • 0 avatar

          If the glass isn’t flat, it may diffract the light. I thought of putting “dimples” on the surface to make it easy to walk on, but that will have an impact on light angles.

          Technically, you want to make these glass panels interchangeable so you can pop a broken one out and replace it with a new one as needed.

          This will never work.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            BTSR, I think you raise important questions, but I still find it easy to believe that all these concerns can be solved easily through glass technology. Make it ribbed surface – or dimples to imitate asphalt, as you say. As for light, how hard is it to make it somewhat non-reflective? I certainly don’t know enough to tell whether this would reduce its ability to capture energy, but overall I think the technical problems are far smaller than the social ones associated with adopting new unproven technology at massive scale.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Never say never, but I would be very surprised if, at a minimum, tire formulations wouldn’t have to change substantially before this could work.

            There’s also the meta issue of separation of concerns. Why compromise energy generation by the need for motive traction and wear, and vice versa. ClusterFs have a bad reputation for a reason.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I wonder how these panels respond to burnouts.

        • 0 avatar

          LOL

        • 0 avatar

          Danio – always asking the important questions…

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I imagine something like a smoky Dekotora light show. In which case, this technology might be fit for my yard.

          • 0 avatar

            The basic problem with this is that the major limiting factor for solar electricity (and solar heat) is not where to put the collectors, it is the cost of the necessary capital (including capital for storage).

          • 0 avatar
            imag

            David Holzman – That is simply not true. The cost of capital for solar has come down tremendously over the last years, as investors have realized that solar projects are an exceptionally reliable investment. When I talked to one of Wells Fargo’s lead investors recently, he said their solar portfolio was one of their best performing investment funds.

            The problem is tax equity, which is only a problem because tax appetite has been lower since 2008. And the only reason tax appetite is needed is because oligarchs lobby the government to put all incentives in the form of tax credits rather than grants. The net effect on the taxpayer is the same with a credit or a grant; the only difference is that a credit allows an unrelated investor to make money off their tax appetite.

            It’s a sickening system, where a percentage of all of our government incentives go to funding unrelated organizations. And it goes for any tax credit, not just solar. In fact, the number of tax credits available leads to the high cost in the market for investors with spare tax appetite.

            Anyway, there are a variety of factors limiting the growth of solar, but I would say lack of interested capital is not one of them.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        First off solar glass is what we’re talking about that has little issue with collecting light because the angles it bends it at still allow for maximum voltaic charge.

        Second of all if you went and looked at a closer picture you would see the glass is both highly textured and has large nipples on it to provide traction. Basic laws of traction pretty much make this glass fine to drive across and walk across with regular all-season tires and shoes respectively.

        BTSR’s views are so partisan that I pretty much can discount him from the get-go on these things.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          How will it hold up to snow plows, road salt, dragging tailpipes, accidents, oil and gas spills? How clean does it have to be to remain effective? How do you access underground utilities currently just under the asphalt, or handle a water main or natural gas line break? Can it be repaired quickly to keep traffic moving, or must traffic be detoured for an extended period?

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Snow – They can have small heating elements built into them that minimize snow to the point of not needing salt or plows. Not to mention stainless steel has a great rating against salt and glass is unaffected.

            Dragging tailipes/debris – It’s tempered glass, short of a direct impact with somebody extremely heavy or very pointed it is unlikely to break or scratch.

            Accidents – Added to the cost of the pile up if they manage to damage a tile. Sucks to be the accident driver. Though I suspect the individual tiles won’t be more than a 1-2K so realistic, breaking 1-2 tiles in a system is the most. Again, odds of breaking them are low unless a piece of car snaps into the road surface and gouges them.

            Utilities – Surprisingly easy, they’re tiles laid into a network, you can unbolt them and rebolt them, accessing underground items would be easier in this situation. As for a break underground, in this situation you could actually build a support trench for the pipes to break into because the road itself isn’t relying on it being uniformly solid underneath, you can lay a concrete trench support which would cut down on broken mains and just waterproofing the wiring would resolve those issues.

            I’m guessing if you have a decent number of tiles stockpiled replacing would be relatively quick and painless. But again, most of my understanding is subjective, I hope I was able to answer some possibilities.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The problem with the heating elements is that it snows at night time, often times snow can fall quickly and there usually isn’t a lot of sunshine when it is snowing. Heated roads are nothing new and they need a lot of energy to keep up with higher snowfall, almost certainly more than the solar panels could keep up with even when they are operating at full capacity.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Scoutdude +10

            Sounds like a good way to ensure that you always have a layer of ice under every major snowfall.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Crazy.

    Roads take an insane pounding. Engineering and buildiing SPVs and LEDs to stand up to that is going to be far more expensive than building standard roads and putting up SPV panels and LED signs alongside the rights of way and would accomplish the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      roads do take an insane pounding and asphalt on industrial highways only lasts 10-15 years. Closing an interstate lane to fix a patch of bad road (which starts happening after only about 5-8 years) takesan orchestrated team of cone trucks, crash cushion trucks, HMA loaded dump trucks, a milling rig, a paving rig, water trucks, smooth wheel rollers, and a cast of dozens of workers. that’s not even counting the fact thatyou can’t (shouldn’t) send that crew out to lay hot asphalt in winter or you have to truck and dispose of thousands of tons of spent asphalt.

      All of a sudden, you’re telling me that maybe I can send a skeleton crew out to hot-swap individual pavement panels as they go bad and I can dynamically re-stripe the traffic lines around that crew? I’m interested.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      When we are all being shuttled in our 2 seat plastic Google cars, the road won’t take as much of a beating.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Why is it crazy? The only reason why most roads have wear issues is the weight of buses and semis. It isn’t exactly rocket science to engineer a steel frame and glass/silicon sandwich that can withstand 40K lbs. In fact its fairly easy because you’re creating a series of honeycombs that are each self-supporting structures. Once you’re displacing the weight along the frame lines instead of across a 40 ft wide sheet of continuous material the weight is actually easier to maintain.

      This is why you can build things from corrugated cardboard and have it last for eternity.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I thought so too, Xer, but then I caught the mistake. The surface may wear as advertised, which I am still not sure of, but let’s take it as given. The surface sits on top of a concrete substructure that will get moved about by the earth below. I suspect they are trying to sell this on the idea that the surface won’t be that much more than asphalt, but if you look at what’s under it, it’s going to be a lot more expensive than we currently use, and it appears to be more susceptible to soil and water issues underneath.

        It’s a really neat idea, but it’s being “freak’n” oversold.

        I will remain suspicious of any solar schemes until I see hard data on cradle to grave energy multiples and costs. It’s one thing to pay more for green, but it’s foolish to use a watt to make a watt (or even less). I find it hard to believe that the output could be negative, but no one ever has a study when I ask. Not even one from a biased source.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          I don’t know, the material under these tiles may not be as expensive over our current fill. It depends on what they need to be set upon. I’m not familiar enough with their support material to make a claim one way or the other. If they can come in at a relatively reasonable cost over asphalt they may end up being the better purchase.

  • avatar
    Kinosh

    This is insanity off the bat.

    Cost of solar roadways>>>Cost of a roadway with solar panels on 15ft high supports.

    Given that they would be out of service in a year of interstate highway usage, the maintenance nightmare they would be, and the general (massive) cost, you’d be better off paying the homeless to pedal dynamos connected to bicycles if your intent was to make electricity.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Even to start small, with sidewalks, driveways and parking lots to prove the idea would be a step in the right direction. It’s certainly an awesome and awe inspiring idea.

    Imagine your driveway or sidewalk dimly glowing at night instead of having to light it with an external source. Parking lots too, no more or fewer light posts.

    • 0 avatar

      I like that thought…it would also be possible to re-draw the available parking space boundaries to compensate for the inevitable idiot who cannot seem to place his/her car straight between two obvious lines. Perhaps there could be sensors that could tell Suburban/Excursion drivers that their chosen vehicle will definitely not fit in the space they are hovering near…or, more seriously, inform drivers of longer vehicles whether they can realistically get into an available parallel parking space.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      I had the same thought. Start with a parking lot or home driveways. Of course, they aren’t realistically anywhere close to triple the cost of asphalt or it would be a no brainer. Most people pay much more than asphalt already.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        The potential piecemeal approach is what i like best about this idea. Start small indeed, finetune or abandon based on the experiences of early adopters. It might hurt the economics of it though, as piecemeal approach is unlikely to build expertise widely and lower costs quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Parking lots? Why would the underside of an oil-dripping car be a sensible place to put a solar panel? If you want to solarize a parking lot, build covered parking. More efficient and probably much cheaper.

      • 0 avatar
        gmichaelj

        I think the idea would be in the part of the parking lot used to access the spots, (the ‘race track’, if you will) not the spots themselves. Near me is a Starbucks that has a special surface for the parking spots that looks like tight gravel and is used to collect water runoff. the ‘race track’ portion of the lot is regular concrete.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Perhaps, but not if the commercial is to be believed. Oil on glass is no issue and eighty plus percent of many parking lots aren’t used except at Christmas.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    This is pretty cool and hopefully worth further research; however, all the potholes and other road damage I see on my commute make me skeptical.

  • avatar
    redav

    I saw it on fb, and replied with a fairly detailed post of why the numbers don’t add up. It’s a cool idea, but the idea sold in the video is not feasible.

  • avatar
    7402

    Does that cost of pavement include just the top layer or the cost of grading, varying sizes of crushed rock, etc? It sounds like everything but the top layer will need to be redone.

    What’s the square footage (square mileage) of roof space in the country? I’m betting it’s higher than the sf of roadway and there is essentially no wear.

    How about railroad tracks? The right of way (except at level crossings) receives zero load since it’s all on the tracks. Putting these panels between the tracks and on both sides could have a payoff and perhaps be tied into the grid that provides electricity for electric locomotives.

    Interesting technology, it just seems there is enough low-hanging fruit to try some other application first.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    Let’s all say this together: “frost heave.”

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    This does sound like a great idea, but I have a hard time taking ideas on Indiegogo too seriously.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The material would most likely never stand up to the pounding by semis, but what a great idea! I like it.

    Move over, George Jetson, flying cars, here we come!

  • avatar
    Fred

    Why don’t we start by putting panels up on our roofs?

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Yes, we can’t even get that done without huge government subsidies.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        The Federal Investment Tax Credit is dropping by 66% in 2016. And people still expect solar to be installed at an increasing rate. State incentives are basically gone.

        Those subsidies were investments that allowed the technology to compete on its own and provide lower cost energy than fossil fuel. Systems built with those subsidies will last beyond their 20 year design life, producing essentially free power for decades.

        What are the subsidies for fossil fuel buying us?

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          What subsidies? When you hear fossil fuel subsidies they are generally twisting the truth.

          I have heard demagogues try to say that because the royalties are too low on federal contracts that’s a subsidy, but that’s a lie. It’s a contract. They can raise the royalty and not get as much up front or not sell at the auction at all. Clinton couldn’t sell any contracts at one point and reduced the royalty on some gulf contracts to zero. Years later, the Feds reneged and demanded the standard royalties. Most of the oil companies decided to avoid the battle and paid.

          Another ploy is to go after some specific rules oil companies have for capital depreciation and other aspects of their accounting rules. Calling those subsidies is nonsense and all business get to depreciate capital investments. The alternative is to allow immediate write offs as expenses or stop taxing profits. Depreciation is simply a method of allocating expense over several years. Figuring an oil companiy’s profits is always going to be complex because they have huge assets of estimated size that literally become taxable overnight. Congratulations you found a billion dollars worth of oil! That will be 200 million dollars please. Boom, bankruptcy sale.

          While there are certainly some outright subsidies for specific acts being wrangled buy some companies using the usual nonsense methods, I don’t know of any outright subsidies for fossil fuel production. I would be happy to end all real subsidies as well as slow the capital depreciation time to something more realistic for many goods that outcast the standard tables by wide margins like aircraft that last decades but depreciate over five years, but almost all the existing rules were written under democrat congresses so it’s really no surprise.

          In conclusion, stop spreading the ridiculous myth of oil subsidies.

  • avatar
    clivesl

    This what our nation has come to? We have the ability to build arguably one of the coolest things ever and our response? Never work, too expensive, why bother? C’mon people, a thousand years from now let’s be the freaking Egyptians that built the pyramids, not the Chinese Emperor that outlawed exploration and burned his fleets.

    Are we Americans or not? This is exactly the kind of insane, way too big problem that we do best. Dig a canal to connect the Great Lakes to New York City? Did that 200 years ago. Railroads across thousands of miles of uncharted wilderness, yep we did that. A national highway system that connects us all, yep that’s taken care of. Send a man to another planet (yes, I am calling the moon a planet for the purpose of this rant), been there done that.

    We have the ability and the technology and the money to do this massively brilliant and currently insane thing, let’s nut up and get it done. I say we start at the Canadian border (screw Alaska) and keep going til we hit Mexico.

    For all the doubters I say this, “Why do you hate America?”

    • 0 avatar

      I remember reading about solar roadways a few years ago, the guy said the biggest obstacle is finding a strong but clear glass for the top of each cell. It sounds like they found a solution with tempered glass. If they can get one large demonstration solar road to work this could be a moonshot-level achievement.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      What do you know about the pyramids? How about the Big Dig? If anything is going to save the country, it isn’t self-aggrandizing public works projects. Why do you think we have the money? Where have you been?

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        We blow how much money on stuff that isn’t nearly this cool? We are the richest, most advanced society in the history of the planet and you say we can’t do this?

        Think about carving corners in your Miata in the middle of February in upstate New York and tell me this isn’t worth every penny.

        C’mon CJ, join us and let’s do something impossible…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The recent projects you noted were done specifically for their economic benefits to their respective regions. The economic argument for solar roadways is apparently “DID WE MENTION THEY’RE SOLAR!? THEY MAKE MONEY!”. Pretty much the same sales pitch I got from the local fly by night solar manufacturer when our local government poured billions into paying people 10x the going electricity rate per kWh to cover their roofs with cells.

      I can see the potential for limited specific use of this technology, but not on the grand scale proposed by the makers of these things. “Because it is awesome” doesn’t really cut it.

      • 0 avatar

        But it’s incredibly, fabulistically awesome!!!

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        The pyramids were pure aggrandizement of the Pharoh’s ego.

        The Erie canal was economic, but no one thought it would work.

        The railroads were also economic, but we had to wait for half the country to leave the Union to get the important ones built.

        The National Highway system was Ike’s attempt to prepare us for World War III.

        Am I the only one that sees the economic potential for virtually unlimited electricity?

        And finally, “Because its Awesome”, should cut it, it’s what got us here…

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      @clivesl “C’mon people, a thousand years from now let’s be the freaking Egyptians that built the pyramids, not the Chinese Emperor that outlawed exploration and burned his fleets.”

      LOL. Ancient Egyptian has long gone extinct. Modern Chinese are direct descendants of ancient Chinese. Do you also want your children to be killed or driven away from this land, because you wasted valuable resources on useless big projects?

      Maybe there is a lesson to be learned.

      • 0 avatar
        clivesl

        Umm, the Egyptians living in Egypt aren’t descendents of you know, the Egyptians?

      • 0 avatar
        sitting@home

        Historian Arnold Toynbee was good at summing up the rise and fall of civilizations through the ages. To quote from the Wikipedia page about him …

        “When a civilization responded to challenges, it grew. Civilizations declined when their leaders stopped responding creatively, and the civilizations then sank owing to nationalism, militarism, and the tyranny of a despotic minority.”

        Something sounds awfully familiar there.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Clive, you’re barking up the tree with commenters who have the barest grasp on science and economics. You can talk yourself silly, describe how this will work and they’ll remain fantastically like against it because their betters have gave them marching orders. I looked at the math and the solar roads can work if place them strategically over the course of a decade to off-set a fair amount of our electrical usage since as they’re placed the sales of the electricity will go towards the road paving funds.

      But basically, you can talk till your blue in the face, solar power as all renewable resources has become a partisan issue. Big oil and the extraction industry has bought the political right and no matter the economic model they will remain steadfast because their political leaders have dictated this issue a non-starter.

  • avatar

    there are far simpler, more efficient and effective ways to move the country off of fossil fuels. The combination of systems that works best is site specific, and dependent on a slew of variables, and one-size-fits-all is inevitably not efficient. (One of my friends gets systems installed for a living, for the DoD, and in a number of countries all over the world.)

    The notion that heating elements could keep roads free of snow–the problem is that when the snow is falling, or has just fallen, there is no sun to melt the snow on the roads. So you’re assuming a lot of storage… more complicating factors. . .

    • 0 avatar
      clivesl

      Who cares about moving off fossil fuels, glowing-freaking-roads David, glowing-freaking-roads…

    • 0 avatar

      Assuming a national grid with three times more energy than needed why couldn’t you just take power from one part of the country and use it in another?

      • 0 avatar

        @TK

        I didn’t say you couldn’t. I can imagine producing large amounts of wind energy or solar in certain regions of the country, possibly for transport to other parts of the country. But there are energy losses in the electricity transport, and there aren’t great economies of scale, and there are great vulnerabilities to terrorists. And when you produce energy close to the points of use, there are synergies to be had.

        But all of that is to argue for more local energy production where possible–which is most places in this country.

        But I think you’re really asking me why we can’t use energy produced in one part of the country to free the roads of snow in another part. It would take a huge amount of expensive electrical energy to do that. There’s a reason why people don’t use electrical resistance to heat their homes outside of the Pacific NW with its cheap hydro. Solar energy is way to expensive to think about doing that. And although it’s getting cheaper, to where it can successfully compete with diesel on islands such as Naushon off the Massachusetts, and although it will probably compete successfully with gas and coal within ten years, it still won’t be cheap enough to heat the roads. If it would, we’d be doing that already with coal or gas-fired electricity.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    As others have said, very interesting, but not sure if possible.

    If it works, it seems like a pretty insane thing not to try.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Having lived in the 50’s , 60’s & 70’s , I await to see what becomes of this .

    Nothing is too strange or weird IMO , if they can think if it , they’ll figure out how to do it .

    My Father once told me when he was little , someone said there was a new Automobile that went 60 miles per hour ~ much side walk talk in The North Bronx ensued , most if it ” no way ! it’d take off and fly away at that speed ! ” .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar

      After WWII, people also said we’d have nuclear fusion in a couple of decades. We haven’t come any closer to harnessing it than we were then, despite huge amounts of money thrown at the problem.

      Some ideas are audacious, but doable. Some are audacious, as well as being the most costly ways to get something done. And some are audacious and impossible.

      The first step in discerning what’s worth trying, and what isn’t, is to be able to ask the right questions.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Many people want the flying cars and jet backpacks they were promised. Personally, I want my nuclear vacuum cleaner.

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        @David: Not true. Last fall, fusion experiments that generated more power than they consumed in containment were successfully carried out. While we’re still a LONG way from commercial safe fusion-derived electricity, we’re closer than you might think.

        • 0 avatar

          No we’re not. It’s not enough to produce more energy than you consume. It has to work for more than seconds. Had you read the recent NYer article about fusion, by a fanboy, it would be obvious to you that it’s pie in the sky.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        We have nuclear fusion, it keeps crushing containment, lets not confuse a serious issue with a major leap forward with it being nearly impossible. Also, to be fair, nuclear fusion is such a highly intense physics issue that it doesn’t rival mechanical and industrial engineering standards.

        You’re basically comparing splitting atoms to developing stronger glass.

        • 0 avatar

          No, I’m comparing two levels of impracticality. One is impractical because it’s a very inefficient way to get solar energy; the other is impractical because it is a fiendishly difficult engineering problem.

          By the way, fusion involves fusing, not splitting atoms.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    What’s the coefficient of friction of a glass roadway? What about when it’s wet? With the people pushing the idea claiming a cost of four times our GDP, why doesn’t anyone ask what we’re paying to meet our energy needs now? Misallocation of resources due to central planning is eliminating the middle class as it is. This idea could gain traction with the misanthropes pushing the green agenda if the general public doesn’t buy a clue.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      You have a really distorted idea of what a centrally planned economy looks like.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I saw Russia in 1984. A centrally planned economy looks bleak. Bad ideas die quiet deaths in free markets. Bad ideas become policy in centrally planned economies. You are in denial.

        • 0 avatar
          Jellodyne

          Yes, because a committee in Washington decides when to build a bread factory, how many shoes to distribute to eastern Nebraska, and how to properly manage tractor distribution based on the 5 Year Plan. And Comrade Obama oversees it all!

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            https://beetlebabee.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/dead_orchards31.jpg?w=477&h=307

            Tell it to farmers that have had their water shut off for the Delta Smelt.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          So far, the innovators in question have gotten $100K from the Feds as a grant to prototype something. They’ve paved a small parking lot.

          This idea, as a whole, is going nowhere and has zero chance of becoming policy(*) prior to actually proving out but the spinoff ideas (assembly procedures, surface materials and management, interconnection framework) might, so dropping some money into it is not necessarily going to be money wasted.

          That is absolutely nothing like the way the Soviet Union was run.

          You’re so far off, I must suspect you’re lying about having visited it.

          (*) – In fact, it would never become “policy,” per se, but it might become the material and construction approach of choice if it ever looks to be economically feasible. We used to build roads out of cobblestones. That technique seems to have fallen victim to those new-fangled inventions of “asphalt” and “concrete.” Neither of those was “policy,” they were just superior ways to build roads.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I must be imagining that I receive continuous pitches from profiteers looking to put solar panels on my roof on the taxpayers’ dime. I must be seeing things when I drive across the state and see massive eyesore wind farms that are mostly idle when they aren’t killing off the raptors. I must be hallucinating when I look at steak prices that I only think are skyrocketing due to ethanol fuel requirements and government land management abuses. People with water flowing through their land have nothing to fear from Obama, especially not if it only flows following heavy rains because nobody is trying to seize control of tributaries in the federal government.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            You can’t tell the difference between “centrally planned” and “incentivized to avoid certain long term costs that would otherwise be borne by society at large?”

            I’m not surprised.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            You assume there is no cost for wasting resources chucking virgins into volcanoes and stripping people of their property rights. When does progressivism stop being idiotic and start being evil, because it ALWAYS does.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            CJinSD: “You assume there is no cost for wasting resources chucking virgins into volcanoes and stripping people of their property rights. When does progressivism stop being idiotic and start being evil, because it ALWAYS does.”

            Funny you should mention stripping people of their property rights. It’s often enough the case that this is done to enrich ‘capitalists.’

            The fact of the matter is, there’s 300 million people here, billions more in the rest of the world, and it’s a bad idea to sh!t where you live. Thus we have environmental regulation that annoys you but means I don’t have to breathe crap and “enjoy” bodies of water that have been turned into sewers.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Asked and answered.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Kix,
            I have to point out that no one in the private sector can strip you of your property rights. They might steal from you, but it’s more than a difference of semantics. The problem with your line of thinking is that the more that gets done by government, the more people in the process have power over your life that private sector people can’t claim. You are free to choose your private sector partners.

            Also, when you reduce the private sector you simply reduce oversight. This is what generally happens because the government isn’t as enthusiastic with restraining itself as it is restraining you. It’s very common for the government to exempt itself from both environmental regulations and liability. The biggest problem we have with pollution on the ship channel is from foreign state owned plants which play the immunity card whenever the regulators come to call..

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Landcrusher: “I have to point out that no one in the private sector can strip you of your property rights.”

            The public sector, under the influence of develops and other profiteers, does this to you. Eminent domain gets used to force property sales.

            Your town almost certainly puts restrictions on what you can and cannot do. That’s the most basic denial of your rights and usually for reasons far less important than actual environmental protection. We’ve got zoning that effectively prevents private wind turbines because other people object to how they look.

            Landcrusher: “Also, when you reduce the private sector you simply reduce oversight.”

            And when you reduce the government, you reduce oversight of what the criminals are doing.

            Landcrusher: “This is what generally happens because the government isn’t as enthusiastic with restraining itself as it is restraining you.”

            And the courts, often enough, step in to reinforce your rights. Then we get a chorus of the law-and-order types whining about technicalities.

            Landcrusher: “It’s very common for the government to exempt itself from both environmental regulations and liability.”

            Yes, no doubt. However, the courts will often step in here, too, and limit that sort of misbehavior.

            Landcrusher: “The biggest problem we have with pollution on the ship channel is from foreign state owned plants which play the immunity card whenever the regulators come to call.”

            OK, that’s boolsheet.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Kix,

            My response was aimed at your statement: “Funny you should mention stripping people of their property rights. It’s often enough the case that this is done to enrich ‘capitalists.’

            Like I said, the private sector CANNOT do it, and you agree. Why don’t you get it? Not sure what the point of your response even is. You are throwing out an argument but not contradicting me.

            No one honest wants criminals to get away with things due to lack of enforcement, the argument is about over reach and regulatory explosions. Are you supporting the EPA attacks over “wetlands” violations we keep hearing about?

            I really don’t get the viewpoint that we need more government and don’t have enough already unless it’s coming from people making their living off of it or just hateful of those people who are successful. Of course, success these days all too often means using the state to fix the game. That is not capitalism., btw.

            And yes, courts in this country do often reign in the other branches, but is that the norm for government? No! It’s only something done in the rare places where government is designed to be limited! And, we have many people living here today who apparently don’t like what we have. Don’t fool yourself, they are on both sides of the aisle.

            The refusal of inspectors info came from a teacher who lives near the channel. I cannot at this time get verification by a link to a news site. Being a fan of skepticism I will not argue with yours. Unlike most people, I actually do try to check my bias on what stories I am willing to believe, and this one slipped right into my world view, so we will see if it turns out to be true. I do have verification of why the gulf is brown along the east Texas coast and it gas nothing to do with drilling and everything to do with ethanol.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Just as an aside, 95% of both concrete and asphalt are the same material – crushed cobblestones, i.e. aggregates. Add water to powdered cement and it coats the aggregate, and solidifies when it cures, glueing the aggregate together.

            Asphalt is the same thing, with a water based emulsion of asphalt that coats the aggregate. When the water evaporates, the asphalt (the lowest grade of crude oil) solidifies and glues the aggregate together.

            The Romans had concrete, but used it for buildings and mortar. They used cobblestones on their roads too, with smaller aggregate underneath, so there were no great leaps of road surfacing technology.

            I’m actually not willing to write off the proposal, but my experience with road building and estimating lead me to believe there will be a host of unanticipated technical and engineering challenges, and the initial estimate will likely be eclipsed as those challenges become known. The grandiose scale of the proposal may prove to be unfeasible, but there are likely advances in manufacturing, materials, and applications that could make examining and testing the idea worthwhile.

        • 0 avatar
          koshchei

          Remember the .com bubble? Bad ideas come to fruition under either system.

          The bad: Command economies are more prone to incompetence and corruption than the free market, as you’re not reliant on a comparatively small number of people to be experts in everything, as well as scrupulously honest.

          They do offer benefits as well though: Faster to-market time resulting from the state assuming the risk, and no need to achieve even medium-term profitability, again for the same reason.

          In the case of SOLAR FREAKING ROADWAYS, I have reservations about long-term reliability, cost, and traction in inclement weather and on inclines, but it would be worth seeing how it plays out in a smallish-scale deployment. Preferably in a state where the population isn’t likely to steal or vandalize the tiles within 8 hours of being installed.

  • avatar
    carve

    This is an absurd idea for so many reasons.

    -50% more expensive? Hah! One takes silicon (rocks), crushes them, mixes them with an oil-refining waste-product, mixes it up and packs it down. The other crushes it into highly refined sand, heats it up until it’s molten hot, grows it into single-crystal ingots, cuts them micro thin, dopes them with exotic chemicals, wires them up, adds microprocessors, heaters and LCD’s, covers them with exotic high-strength glass, and then attaches them to a no-doubt concrete foundation via a steel structure and incorporates a power grid.

    -It solves a problem we don’t have. The problem with solar is not lack of space: it’s the expense and intermitent nature. This system would make them even more expensive because now they have to withstand immense abuse, can’t face the sun directly, and will be covered with oil and dirt. If you can afford solar panels, why would you not put them at the point of use- your roof!

    -It’s the last place you want to put solar panels. I suppose it has the advantage of being invisible, but you DRIVE on them…where them out…get them dirty/oily and scratched up…and they have to be pointed straight up instead of angled towards (or better yet, tracking) the sun. They’d better have good traction, too, or we’ll have safety issues.

    If you could afford solar panels, would you put them on your roof or your driveway? The roof will make a lot more power for the money and be lower maintenaince. You pick.

    This is a fail on all levels except asthetics.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I suspect part of the challenge is that to make it work on a highway you need super smooth grading. Ever noticed light rail costs many more times than standard railroad track?

    I would love for this to work, but I suspect it’s “freak’n” complicated and expensive.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    There are so many other better places for solar panels. Put them on elevated covers over parking space rows in big parking lots, and now you’ve got covered parking AND revenue and electrical generation. India is working on a pilot program to put solar panels over water supply canals, which will result in power generation AND reduced evaporation.

    There’s plenty of space where the installation of solar generation would be much much cheaper, need less maintenance, and provide a better use, as well as not being covered up by cars some amount of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Exactly. In many places, sunlight is an unwanted input that costs money to get rid of (e.g., A/C). Building solar such that it provides shade to housing, offices, parking, waterways, etc., simultaneously eliminates the waste disposal cost and generates a revenue stream. Win-win.

      Putting solar on the ground underneath something else is backwards.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Agreed! Its an AWESOME concept but fails in so many ways. Solar makes WAY more sense on top of already existing structures or embedded into current GLASS windows on facades. We have all seen how long normal road construction / repair takes. Now imagine that PLUS all the wiring, circuits, solar cells, LEDs, etc, etc. Sorry but construction on this kind of scale would be impossible regardless of money. It reminds me of similar brilliant ideas like space elevators and mag-lev trains.

        But a COVERED parking structure would work fine. Put the panels OVER the cars for maximum efficiency. This way you shade the cars which reduces the need to run air conditioning and collect sun light to recharge batteries. Putting complicated solar cells UNDER heavy vehicles, around complex curves, over hills, all with camber for drainage? Yeah… not going to work in most places. Maybe just do all of Florida and Nevada where its flat ;)

        For those that didn’t bother to watch the video the traction and snow/ice issue is taken care of. The real problem is building enough of these things. It would be like covering every road in the US with 18″ ceramic floor tiles, one-by-one! The labor alone would unreal compared to current road building methods where one truck simply dumps material then a second truck rolls it flat. Regardless of raw material cost which might be recouped wiht the “free” electricity the installation is where the epic fail happens.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    We can and will implement this as soon as the idea is sold to the government agencies that take most of our tax $$$. Someone just need to put in a call to the Pentagon and / or the NSA:

    “Tied into a computer network, … the system could be used for any number of [legally questionable government] purposes including … “

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    It’s an interesting concept, but I think it’s best limited to sidewalks, parking lots and driveways. Roads and highways take a terrible beating from all the traffic, weather and temperature extremes along with chemicals like road salt. In theory this is an interesting concept, but the costs of tearing up existing highways and replacing it would be too expensive for it ever to be economically feasible.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I don’t know about full blown solar panels, but why not capture the energy from friction of vehicles traveling on the roads?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Capturing energy from vehicles can decrease the efficiency of those vehicles:
      – Capturing the friction, as you put it, likely would increase the friction/drag on cars, thus making them burn more fuel.
      – Capturing the wind generated by cars as they drive past will slow down the air around following cars, which increases their drag & make them burn more fuel.

      Of course, there may be ways to harness wasted energy without extracting more. Regenerative braking is the classic example, but there can also be regenerative suspension. I’m not sure how to do it as part of the road, however.

      • 0 avatar
        Brett Woods

        If shock absorbers were generators?

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          Yes, they would essentially be linear motors instead of a circular.

          A shock absorber is just a means to generate a force that resists motion. The standard dashpot design converts the motion energy into thermal energy (hence the suspension stops moving or is “damped”).

          A magnet inside a coil also generates a force resisting motion, but instead of transferring energy as heat, it converts it to electricity. It’s like magnetic suspension in reverse.

          There are some significant design problems, but in theory, since that energy is thrown away anyway, it’s ‘free’ to recoup.

          • 0 avatar
            Brett Woods

            I wonder if there is a fluid that will generate a current when compressed? Or if each shock piston movement could otherwise send a small current into a capacitor that would bleed off into the EV system?

            I think you’re on to something here redav!

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Oh, you mean, like capturing the energy from the wind while driving?

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Yes. I’ve seen some ideas of putting turbines on the road signs that span freeways. If you can capture that energy without impairing the benefit it gives other cars, it would work, but I doubt you can.

        • 0 avatar
          Brett Woods

          I keep coming back to the idea of turbines mounted in Venturi tunnels on the underside of the car. They would be like electric RC airplane drivetrains in reverse.

          I wouldn’t worry about “increased air resistance.” The underside of today’s vehicles are not currently designed by Adrian Newey types. But if they were….

  • avatar
    wsn

    I welcome all novel ideas, as long as it doesn’t use my tax money.

    If it’s a good idea, I am sure it can find angel investors. They can try it on new private toll highways with 0 public fund.

    • 0 avatar
      Short Bus

      Where does this mythical road exist?

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        Visit a website called Google. Examples of privately built/run roads:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_Highway_407
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulles_Greenway
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adams_Avenue_Turnpike

        Additionally, are the millions of privately parking lot owners dumb for not adopting this?
        Or, have they ALL been bought out and silenced by big oil? Or, big asphalt?
        Or, maybe parking lot owners are afraid cuz all the world’s snow plow operators have large, Pauly-Walnuts type ‘negotiators’ from a secret UN agency that prohibit cost savings in plowing contracts?

        Solar Highways ARE an interesting idea. If and when they become cost effective, private equity $$$ will flood it. The MARKET will work. Then government can test competing designs and choose the best.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “I welcome all novel ideas, as long as it doesn’t use my tax money.”

      Don’t use tax money to build roads?

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I’ll leave the myriad mechanical and maintenance questions to others. I only will warn that there are so many electrical considerations here that it boggles the mind.

    And – these may be solved – IF we let private industry do it.

    If we get the gubmit involved – just remember that as bad as GM or YUGO was…they were Einsteins compared to the political science and legal idiots currently doing the only thing they can do and still get paid – in the gubmit.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Snow. This solar panel will work just great until the first snowplow heads on through. Kadoink, brack, brack as our hero stares out a windshield into the night, his true civic endeavor to make the roadways safe for the morning commute.

    Why go through all the intermediate steps of driverless Google cars, running on earth-based glass moonbeam roadways? Heaven, ain’t it?

    To be a nice little drone …..

    So then, let’s make the next big breakthrough the distillation of the essence of human soul and brain into a small sphere suitable for storing in eggcups all wired to all the other eggcups. The green solution.

    Why bother dreaming small when the sky is the limit?

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I am not sure high cost of production / implementation is a valid argument.
    This system not only replaces roads but a great deal of other systems and therefor a direct cost comparison is not appropriate.
    Factor in electricity generation ability that standard roads do not have vs. costs saved by not needing to build more power plants and decommissioning existing plants. Think reduced fuel use, pollution, plant maintenance, land reclaimed for more profitable use etc. There are costs saved by no longer needing to paint road surfaces. The road can act as a power grid, eliminating power poles and those costs associated with their maintenance (during storms etc). The ability to self de-ice will save huge amounts of cash, think salt trucks and the mining and transportation of the salt itself. They are thinking that roads can provide drivers with early warning of obstacles in the road ahead, deer, trees, car accidents, think of the insurance savings!
    As to the “glass is slippery” argument, I understand they have thought of that and the surface they have in mind is compliant with current road surface grip standards and strong enough to withstand highway use.
    It’s a great idea that needs further investigation, even live testing.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Cost is always a valid argument. Especially in the very political (and often Soprano-grade corrupt) arena of road construction and maintenance.

      When it comes to lighting, Solar Highways may have some application. However, the energy to melt ice and snow from roads is nuts. I know a guy (with eff-you money) with a heated, long driveway. Running his natural gas / electric driveway heater (admittedly in a snow belt zone) is a middle class mortgage payment.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    There are so many comments already that I can’t be sure if anyone has mentioned the fact that a lot of these solar panels will be covered by cars much of the time. Parking lots are especially vulnerable to people putting their cars rigth in the way. Apart from that I think most of the other problems mentioned are merely ‘challenges’. I think the cost, and maintenance will be negotiated by the energy created. So, as long as people don’t cover them up with their cars all the time it could work.(but still not as good as covering all rooftops)

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I’m not going to bother to look for the statistic I saw a while ago but when I was doing some urban planning research the average parking lot is 50% bigger than required and is averaging somewhere around 30% occupancy. So while I see the issue you describe the ability of a large box store, mall, or multi-plex to have a parking lot generating energy with 70% of their spaces is amazing. Not to mention the hours before they open for the day and in the case of 9-5 M-F office parks the two free days of energy.

      It would lose energy to cars parking on them obviously but the percentage gains would off-set the paving needs and return on investment.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    This might very well be the dumbest idea I have ever seen. I am 100% in agreement with the guy above who said just put the damn things 30 feet or so above the highway if you must do something this impractical. Although…personally, I am not in favor of this idea at all, I am in favor of using the Nevada desert as a thermal solar farm as done with the ivanpah solar station and using the excess for pumping water to balance the times more electricity is needed …seriously, Google iivanpah. Its the kind of thing we should have been building for 100 years by now.

  • avatar
    TW5

    What’s the justification for dismantling $20T in existing, functional US roadways? The salvage value of the materials wouldn’t even fund the deconstruction, which is a major problem. Furthermore, if CFRP becomes a ubiquitous auto technology, vehicles will weigh a small fraction of what they weigh now. Energy consumption and road maintenance costs (in temperate climates) would plummet.

    The idea seems a bit ridiculous to me, but if solar road technology is implemented, low-speed residential roads in the Southwest are probably a good starting point.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Over the next couple decades, most of that roadway will be resurfaced. Solar roads won’t happen over night, it would be a long, gradual process. I agree the southwest is the best place to start.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Actually, Tom, having been involved at the dawn of cellular telephony, I can tell you that no one said it wouldn’t work. What made the concept (small transmit/receive cells; re-use of radio frequencies) work was the advent of massive amounts of cheap computer power that would automatically “hand off” the call as the user moved from one cell area to another. I still marvel at how the system works, more than 30 years after it got started.

    What people did say about cell phones is that there would be no great demand for the service, not that it wouldn’t work. That was because — as is all too common among “forecasters” — someone did a straight-line projection based on the demand for the existing mobile telephone technology. Early mobile telephones used a single transmitter to cover the service area and had a limited number of frequencies available. As a result, the transmission was “simplex” (that is only one party could talk at a time) and, of course, call quality degraded with increasing distance from the transmitter and was subject to other interference. I know; I used one in the early 1970s.

    First generation cellular was analog, too, but the small area covered by each “cell” mitigated propagation problems; and, of course, it was “duplex” just like land line phones.

    Completely overlooked in this pie-in-the-sky free solar electricity scenario is that there is a general effort to reduce the amount of impermeable surfaces (like roadways and sidewalk) because of the runoff they generate, which surges through storm sewer systems and ultimately into streams and rivers. This is a legitimate environmental consideration. Period surges of large volumes of dirty water into streams and rivers has a real negative effect on wildlife that lives in them.

    And I’m kinda guessing that the rough calculations done by the proponents do not account for the fact that a substantial percentage of the surface area that they are counting on for electricity is blocked by vehicles using the roadway.

    What dooms all of these inappropriate applications of technology is that successful new technology works because it lowers the cost of something. Cell phones are as good as an example as anything. The ubiquity of computers is another. The ubiquity of individual cars is yet another, because people put a value on their time. I live within the city limits of Washington and my work is also in the city. I drive to work rather than take the bus, because the drive takes 10 minutes and the bus takes 30. But for that substantial time difference, I’d happily take the bus.

    People have TVs in every room because, in inflation-adjusted dollars, TVs are much cheaper than they were in the 1960s or the 1950s . . . and they are a lot better as well.

    So, other than technologies mandated or purchased by the government (like weapons systems, for example), successful new technologies owe their success to the fact that they reduce the cost of something. Indeed, with respect to weapons systems, the continuing complaint is that they are highly complex (and therefore expensive) and don’t work very well. But some military guys get the idea that the technology will allow them to make X and so they gotta have it. To be sure, some military technologies, like stealth aircraft, are indeed game-changing as Saddam discovered in 1991. But some are expensive failures and some, like the V-22 Osprey tilt-wing aircraft, ultimately succeed but at huge cost in money and, IIRC, some lives.

    As one of the B&B said, why don’t we start with solar panel roofing material. Everybody needs a roof.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      “new technology works because it lowers the cost of something. Cell phones are as good as an example as anything. ”

      Cell phones are a terrible example. My cell phone costs many times what my old land line phone cost, and the service fee is also substantially higher than my phone bill ever was. Cell phones are a good example of a technology that costs more but delivers enough additional value to be worth the cost. Whether the same applies to solar roads remains to be seen.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Cost does not always mean money; it can be any resource. For most projects the cost is distilled down to time and/or money.

        Your cell phone might cost a lot of money, but you said yourself the value add is worth it. I’m assuming it lowers your time cost by allowing you to be more productive.

    • 0 avatar

      Great points, well made. I just want to clarify that at no point in the article did I say that people thought cell phones wouldn’t work. I said there was a limited network, the cost was high and people thought they would only be marginally useful.

      I chose cell phones as an example because I remember one of my high school teachers talking about “cellular radio” back in 1982. He was convinced it was the next big thing and bought as much stock as he could. Ive never followed up with him, but if he really did get in on the ground floor he’s probably a rich man today.

      All I remember thinking at the time was “Who the hell would want that?”. Of course, between us friends here, even though I have a cell phone today, I’m still not sure if I really WANT one…

  • avatar

    Innowattech wants to harvest energy from roads piezoelectrically. When your car drives over a road, it compresses the road slightly. That energy can theoretically be harvested. They can do it with roads, railroads, pedestrians and even under stamping presses.

    http://www.innowattech.co.il/

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    The running argument here is basically the same one said endlessly by the right partisans in that the cost is too high, unproven, I like the status quo, we don’t have the money, yada yada yada. I’ve explained how almost all of these have no basis in reality but they’ll be used endlessly to defend their broken point of view.

    As it stands this is still in need of refinement but if we opted to replace residential roads first in major city centers and the suburbs we could reduce our power consumption by a few percentage points. Ideally the cost of replacement while higher would off-set with the power generated. This would mean that they’re functionally equivalent in cost or only slightly more and thus as more are replaced and we can introduce a quick plug-and-play system which would bring down the cost of repairs simply because we wouldn’t need to hot patch, cold patch, or do spot repairs in that way. We would pick up a tile, place a new one, and move on. Down time would drop while roads would be uniformly better.

    Still, I see the upfront cost, but sometimes we just need to spend the money to make things better.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      You remind me of the kid that showed up at the 8th grade science fair with a toy he made out of his Meccano set. I wonder if he ever grew up?

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Do I? I actually won my 8th grade science fair. I haven’t the foggiest clue what a Meccano set is though. I wouldn’t mind the stupid ad hominem attacks if they ever could land a blow. But with you it’s akin to watching a child flail. I just feel saddened because I picture you as the parent of that kid in my classroom who filled their head with the stupidity I have to attempt to shake out.

        As for the left, you mean the political left, the scientific left and general cultural left are so definitively for progress the very concept has become associated with the political left. The idea that progress can be slowed by redistribution and ‘regulatory hell’ seems at best comical. But I understand, LC, you got your views, I got mine, reality agrees with me but it doesn’t stop political adherents from stamping their feet and crying foul.

        If nobody ever does take the leap we’ll never get anywhere. The greatest inventions of the 20th century were by and large developed with government funds or at public institutions (lets not nit-pick, if we need to go tit-for-tat it’ll get boring fast…) and enhanced by government contracts when not developed in those areas. I’m not saying this is the end all be all and will solve our energy problem, I’m willing to have them start producing these tiles and lay out a few hundred miles with government grants and see where we are after a year or two. I’m actually not demanding immediate full-scale installation, but I’m not writing it if because I understand the upfront costs are what keep these projects from progressing while we keep investing into the military spending that isn’t going towards R&D but simply lining the pockets of the military industrial complex. We can not buy a few planes and lay a few thousand miles of road and try it out.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Because the left never wants to stop the wheels of progress or settle on scientific knowledge?

      Skepticism is not a partisan thing and the unstated promise of most liberal schemes is to slow progress by redistribution and regulatory hell, but we digress.

      I have no problem with government funding the sorts of contests this couple won, and certainly support their attempts to get private funding. I am certainly on the right, so I have to give your statement here an F. If your state wants to try it, great, but I hope my state will wait for more info. Furthermore, the video is a magnet for skepticism.

      I can be skeptical and wish them all the best.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Furthermore, the video is a magnet for skepticism.”

        You can say that again. It sounds more like an ad for POWERTHIRST that it does a pitch for a serious product.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      What problems does it solve? Lack of space is not the thing holding solar back as we have MASSIVE amounts of unused roof space. Roofs are less obstructed, you can have the panels face the sun, it shades the building reducing heat load and radiation damage, and it only needs to be built to handle snow and wind loads rather than the force of 100,000 pound trucks with out-of-balance tires driving over it for 20 years.

      Until we start running low on roof space for solar panels, this is a solution looking for a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      Yes, spending money to make things better is a great cause……but spend it where it makes sense. This does not make any sense whatsoever.

      Right Waste Management (yes, the company)produces TWICE the amount of energy than the entire US solar industry. Twice. Solar is a great concept but the power return, at this time, is insufficient. It requires a significant amount of area for very little return.

      There are other solar options that are more viable and make a hell of a lot more sense than solar panels on roads. Take that money and offer it as a subsidy to put solar panels on each and every home. Put solar panels on top of parking garage structures. Hell, put solar panels in parking lots to offer covered parking (already being done in some places).

      Installing panels in a road is a boondoggle much like California’s high speed train to no where and the DOE loans that were given out to damn near anyone who the right buzz word in their proposal.

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    Folks, this is not a good idea. More of a brain f*rt than an actual idea. We could cover the roofs of buildings all over the country right now with solar panels for a LOT less money…, but this isn’t done for a great many very good reasons. When electricity is $0.40 a kW hour, we’ll all have solar panels, go look at Hawaii.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    It is a cool idea, maybe it would work as a sidewalk in a high end development or Disney Land. The roads? Not in my lifetime. I would just be happy if Washtenaw County would send out two guys in a dump truck with hot tar and fill the massive potholes from this past winter.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If solar roadways ever come about, it will take at least 20 years to get saturation. Early model panels will only be installed where the cost/benefit ratio is the best – infrequently travelled surfaces where there is low traffic and the need for the power is great. As the technology gets better, it will become cost effective over larger areas. The surface will either have to be mass-produced in easily connected panels or actually sprayed on – think a large ink-jet printer. The overlay surface would not absolutely have to be glass.

    Engineering the mass-produced panels will be tough. Not only do they have to generate electricity and be rugged enough to drive on, they have to safely carry the current generated by other panels down the stretch. The panels also have to degrade gradually. This means the panels have to be self-configuring to a point. Each panel or section of a panel will have its own computer, and that computer will have a network id. Because all these computers can talk to each other, and each panel will be idle most of the time, the panels jointly can be a giant multi-processing supercomputer, like Deep Thought. Just think, the roads your children travel on will be able to determine that the answer to life the universe and everything is 42.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Cost/benefit? If you listen to some people, the unseen benefits are worth ANY cost! Nevermind the much more effective implementations of solar tech.

  • avatar
    KrohmDohm

    Making something passive (roads) an active part of our information and energy infrastructure is an idea whose time has come. Yes it is a reach to think these solar roadways will be implemented exactly as they appear today. This is an alpha product at best. A first stab at something new. Undoubtedly if this idea is implemented its form will be significantly different yet directly inspired by this product. Stating categorically “it’ll never work” makes those saying it sound like luddites. Every new idea has detractors. Then when the new idea succeeds the critics eventually sing its praises. Our society’s demands for more and more electricity dictate we find new ways to generate it. Get on board.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      What problem does it solve? The reason solar hasn’t caught on is not lack of space to put the panels; it’s expense. Roof-mounted makes more sense on so many levels, and is far more efficient (aimed at the sun, cleaner) and can be built to take far less strenous loads. Once we run out of roof space, this might be a good option for unobtrusive solar installations, but even then farms out in the desert are probably more sensible.

  • avatar

    There’s another “feature” of the panels that wouldn’t work … at least not when they are actually generating power. The snazzy LED striping would be nearly invisible in the daylight. And the panels would need much higher resolution / LED density to be useful below highway speeds. A parking lot stripe would require a LOT more LEDs than their current designs contain.


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