Solar Roadways Seeks $1M to Replace Streets with Solar Panels

 Pages 1 2 NEXT
 

Solar Roadways Seeks $1M to Replace Streets with Solar Panels

A crowd funding project is seeking $1 million to revolutionize the world's road infrastructure with "solar roadways" - solar panels that can be driven on, melt snow, and provide customizable illumination.

Imagine a world in which you no longer have to shovel your driveway, worry about potholes, or have difficulty seeing the dividing lines on streets at night. Scott and Julie Brusaw, co-inventors of Solar Roadways, are seeking to make that a reality with their modular paving system of solar panels.

But Solar Roadways isn't just a pipe dream. The project has received two phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration for research and development of a paving system that will pay for itself over its lifespan - in this case, the panels pay for themselves primarily through the generation of electricity, which can power homes and businesses connected via driveways and parking lots.

Prototypes have been tested to withstand the heaviest of trucks, include heating elements to remain free of snow and ice, and have customizable LEDs to make road lines and signage. Electric vehicles will even be able to charge while driving on solar roadways through "mutual induction technology."

The inventors claim that a nationwide system of Solar Roadways could produce more clean, renewable energy than a country uses as a whole and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent. They are seeking $1 million to hire staff to move into production as quickly as possible and fill key rolls, including materials engineers, civil engineers, and structural engineers.

In the future, will we be literally walking on sunshine?

Source: Indiegogo

Permalink

Good thought, but I see two practical problems with it.

{1} The wear and tear. All the crap that ends up on regular roads - from treadmarks to garbage to animal carcasses and so on - will end up here too, without fail. This will gradually, then greatly, inhibit the process simply by blocking the sun. You get significantly less than this on basic solar panel areas because they're not being driven on or are in generally public areas where other things happen in their midst.

{2} Wouldn't the heat of the panels absorbing sun all day cause tire blowouts?

These things aren't going to absorb any more heat than black asphalt. In fact, the whole point is to convert some of the suns energy into electricity instead of heat.

I worry more about how they're going to simultaneously make these things transparent enough for the solar panels to work and rough enough that it won't be like driving on ice.

Other than that, who knows, could work!

See now here we have a crowdfunding project worth investing in. Reallocate the resources from ridiculous Shaq-Fu remake and we'd already be almost half way there. Makes you wonder if we have our priorities in order as a society.

FalloutJack:
Good thought, but I see two practical problems with it.

{1} The wear and tear. All the crap that ends up on regular roads - from treadmarks to garbage to animal carcasses and so on - will end up here too, without fail. This will gradually, then greatly, inhibit the process simply by blocking the sun. You get significantly less than this on basic solar panel areas because they're not being driven on or are in generally public areas where other things happen in their midst.

{2} Wouldn't the heat of the panels absorbing sun all day cause tire blowouts?

(1) Agreed, how much can one of these take, anyway?

(2) I concur, how much heat can one these roadways take? How much can it transfer into the system, but not have the road itself be hot enough to cook things on? That, and how long would it take to set these roads up, anyway? How much would maintenance cost? Also, I think it may not be safe to drive on something that's constantly charged with high voltage. It's good idea on paper, maybe not as much in execution.

GamerMage:
Hoi

Mind you, I'm NOT saying to put the halters on the idea. It's GREAT as long as you address stuff like this and make sure it works, stays working, and is the benefit to mankind you're hoping for. I'm just saying that nature has a way of screwing with us on things like this, right along with physics and other things. They shouldn't give up if this turns out to be a problem, just...work on it.

Jupiter065:

I worry more about how they're going to simultaneously make these things transparent enough for the solar panels to work and rough enough that it won't be like driving on ice.

Maybe that's where the texture comes in, the bumps are rough and provide grip for tires, and the space between is clear and smooth to catch the light.

But what if you have heavy traffic and the cars block all the light, and trees by the side of the road casting shadows too. Doesn't sound like it can be very efficient, by maybe it can still work on a massive scale. I'm really intrigued by this.

I'm intrigued by this. I've got some concerns about the practicality of such a move, but if they can pull it off, this'd be fucking amazing.

Well, you can't really use it anywhere there's going to be ice simply because of frost heaves fucking up any kind of foundation. I can't see any government spending $20 million per 1/4 mile to dig 30 ft and fill it with layered cement before they put on the fancy solar-powered pavement.

But in mild climates, ya, it sounds like a great idea.

Another pie in the sky idea. The problem is that transmission of electrical power over long distances isn't very efficient. Thats why there are high voltage power lines. If you collect power on the roads without accompanying high voltage transmission lines and step up transformers every few miles most of the power is going to be wasted. The capital costs of building that accompanying infrastructure means that it probably would not break even.

So they believe that the U.S government will be able too construct and maintain a nationwide network of these solar roads?

I've had a pot hole in the road in front of my house for the past three and a half years.

Nuff' said.

Sounds awesome, but I don't think a solar road inside a city with a permanent traffic jam gets much sunshine.

I liked the project of a road with pressure plates which turn the kinetic energy of the cars to electricity. That sounds more realistic to me.

Assuming something like this can be done it would be the most amazing thing ever.

FalloutJack:
Good thought, but I see two practical problems with it.

{1} The wear and tear. All the crap that ends up on regular roads - from treadmarks to garbage to animal carcasses and so on - will end up here too, without fail. This will gradually, then greatly, inhibit the process simply by blocking the sun. You get significantly less than this on basic solar panel areas because they're not being driven on or are in generally public areas where other things happen in their midst.

{2} Wouldn't the heat of the panels absorbing sun all day cause tire blowouts?

I'm sure it's all been well-thought out and these problems have already been addressed. I mean the government is alread dumping money into it, so it must be...

Oh...

Oh god...

More on topic, this is a really neat idea and, providing they do have all the kinks worked out, sounds like it could be very successful.

I don't see it being used for highways in the middle on nowhere, for the reasons posted above.
But here and there, inside the cities? Parking areas and alleyways? Why not?

I also don't see them doing the revolution with those 1 million dollars, but if it helps them improve it and spread the word...

All in all, a starter worth kicking :)

Why?

I mean, we have the technology to stick solar panels on roofs where they don't have to worry about being driven on. Most roofs don't have these...why try to stick them on the road?

Why would you want to make them keep free of snow and ice? You really want to start putting the things where the sun in mostly shining, which is why they build solar plants in deserts.

A very, very small portion of roads in under a traffic jam at any given time. That is not a problem. Also, as pointed out, this will make the road cooler, not hotter, since part of the energy is turned into electricity.

The real problem is the cost. Not only the cost in the silly imaginary money we people use, but the actual energy cost of building these things compared to the energy output over their lifetime. Even dedicated solar panels have difficulty breaking even, although new technologies are rapidly addressing that. The wear of having cars drive over these would shorten the lifetime and tip the balance against.

On the other hand, it is not like it takes zero energy to construct regular asphalt. So it is not entirely implausible this could work out when comparing to regular roads. More likely in limited areas, though, since silly imaginary money does matter so much to us.

In the long term it is fairly likely humanity will try to make as many of the artificial surfaces we create solar panels as possible. This is already beginning with windows and walls. It is a good idea for roads too, but in the large scale dedicated panels like these seem too inefficient to build. With recent advances it is not inconceivable that some pourable material like asphalt could be dosed with some clever nano-structures to make it an inefficient, but very cheap solar energy source. That kind of technology would be much more useful.

In the very long term, maintaining roads is annoying. We need to make them living things so they take care of themselves. Then at the very last they will work with solar energy.

Cooooool, I hope this really works.

Also do all the other stuff we walk/bike/drive on with these things! Making the world a little bit more like the future of our imagination.

This is neat. Assuming they can come up with a cost efficient way to implement it this could prove to be really awesome.

They'll pave the way for driverless vehicles... Litterally.

But seriously, solar panels in hexagon shapes. What's not to love?
Unless you make your money from an oil well, of course...

I could see them putting it in the median or along the ditches, but in the middle of the road? probably not. Too much wear and tear on the panels to make it practical.

I'm really not seeing the advantage of combining these two things.

I mean solar panels are great. Roads are great.

But why would you put solar panels in a place you know for certain they're going to be covered at least part of the time by cars?

Why not just make your regular road and then take all those solar panels and put them in an area where conditions are optimal for solar energy and no cars covering them to simply generate energy 100% of the possible time and then route that to said routes if you really do want to get the heating stuff working there and whatever else these solar roadways can.

I honestly don't see a single advantage to putting solar panels beneath thick murky plates of glass when you could be putting them elsewhere while still retaining all the extra functionality these things provide.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that this would make maintenance of the roads easier. Currently, you have to get a team to block off the road for an extended period of time, peel up the existing, old/damaged asphalt, lay new asphalt, let it cure, then paint it before finally allowing traffic back on it.

This stuff would take a few guys with a few special tools to unlock, pull and place a new tile only on the damaged/worn space and they're done.
If they can use the lights on it in place of paint(which seems to be the goal) you can skip the paint step as well.
From there you can re-recycle a lot of the damaged tile before putting it back into circulation.

Also, I'm confused why people think the panels storing some electricity and outputting some as heat(only when cold) would magically cause destructive damage to vehicles driving on them. I cannot imagine these tile getting any hotter than asphalt in the summer sun, and if that doesn't destroy your tires, these things won't.

Hagi:
snip

Economy of scale.

The problem is, to use solar power for anything other than helping lower the costs of a single house, is you need a TON of surface area. Solar panel farms are friggen huge and you can't place them in farmland and the like as easily as you can wind generators.

If - as unlikely as it is - every major city's roads were this stuff, you'd offset the competitive inefficiency of the glassed plates by sheer input surface volume.
That, and I'm not sure why you think having cars occasionally covering the surface would be any more damaging to efficiency if a regular solar farm has a cloudy/stormy day. It'd only really matter in places like L.A., where you get gigantic, long-running traffic jams.

And even then, the sheer surface area doing an entire city's roads would give would invalidate that localized problem.

FalloutJack:
Good thought, but I see two practical problems with it.

{1} The wear and tear. All the crap that ends up on regular roads - from treadmarks to garbage to animal carcasses and so on - will end up here too, without fail. This will gradually, then greatly, inhibit the process simply by blocking the sun. You get significantly less than this on basic solar panel areas because they're not being driven on or are in generally public areas where other things happen in their midst.

Didn't they state in the article that these things are designed to take punishment? They'd have to be pretty stupid if they didn't create these things with making them resilient enough to handle what a typical asphalt road can or better in mind.

Rex Dark:

Unless you make your money from an oil well, of course...

This^ is the reason I don't expect this to actually happen, especially not anytime soon. The corporations that make so much money off of oil and other consumable power sources would lose BILLIONS if this was actually implemented on a wide scale, so they'd do everything they can to prevent this from getting off the ground until they absolutely positively needed to.

Why do futuristic things always need to have so many features? You want to make a new form of roads? Fine. You want it to collect solar energy? That's crazy, but let's go with it. You want it to melt snow and light up? And, what was that with the wires, have the power lines underground? I just don't get why all these things have to happen at once. Revolutions almost always go back to the way things were, while small changes actually get stuff done over time.

deleted

immortalfrieza:
Zip

Ah, no no, I mean like stuff getting all over the panels. They wouldn't let people drive on it if they didn't think it could remain intact. I mean more like all the crap of the world getting all over it and inhibiting the process.

This would be a fantastic idea if it's practical.

We should really devote some attenti...

Wait, what? Some rich racist said something condescending and racist?

News cycle, SWITCH IT UP!!!

i just dont like the blind optimism that goes along with "renewable" im no expert in any of the fields of science touching this , but correct me if im wrong , you cant create or destroy anything you can just change its state, e=mc sq and all that and we know we cant predict effects this complex that chaos theory thing.... i just dont see how blindly removing such huge amounts of energy from the weather system can possible be a good thing.

zumbledum:
i just dont like the blind optimism that goes along with "renewable" im no expert in any of the fields of science touching this , but correct me if im wrong , you cant create or destroy anything you can just change its state, e=mc sq and all that and we know we cant predict effects this complex that chaos theory thing.... i just dont see how blindly removing such huge amounts of energy from the weather system can possible be a good thing.

The Earth isn't a closed system. Sunlight is constantly bombarding the planet, which is energy coming into the system. We are simply harnessing some of this energy with solar technology.

Or, if you want to think about it another way, the sun is basically a massive nuclear reaction and we're just harnessing a tiny fraction of the energy it's producing. It's not truly limitless since one day the sun will burn out, but for our needs it's practically limitless energy.

At any rate, renewable energy certainly doesn't violate any fundamental laws of nature or energy conservation or anything like that. Like I said, the key thing to remember is that Earth is NOT a closed system, so mass and energy conservation laws can't be applied.

Avaholic03:

zumbledum:
i just dont like the blind optimism that goes along with "renewable" im no expert in any of the fields of science touching this , but correct me if im wrong , you cant create or destroy anything you can just change its state, e=mc sq and all that and we know we cant predict effects this complex that chaos theory thing.... i just dont see how blindly removing such huge amounts of energy from the weather system can possible be a good thing.

The Earth isn't a closed system. Sunlight is constantly bombarding the planet, which is energy coming into the system. We are simply harnessing some of this energy with solar technology.

Or, if you want to think about it another way, the sun is basically a massive nuclear reaction and we're just harnessing a tiny fraction of the energy it's producing. It's not truly limitless since one day the sun will burn out, but for our needs it's practically limitless energy.

At any rate, renewable energy certainly doesn't violate any fundamental laws of nature or energy conservation or anything like that. Like I said, the key thing to remember is that Earth is NOT a closed system, so mass and energy conservation laws can't be applied.

yeah i do get all that , but whatever energy we take from the system , be it solar wind tide whatever, means that energy isnt going where it used to that has to have an affect?

sticking this solar powered road surface downs isnt going to magically make the sun shine brighter is it? no its going to redirect that energy from where it currently goes.

butterfly wings... but sucking enough energy out of the weather system to power a country np! i just dont see it.

Hahaha.. no.

This is a dumb idea because we have cities full of houses that have roofs that really could use a solar power upgrade....

Noone drives on fckns house roofs....

Germany was well on its way subsisding houseowners to install solar panels and alas it had a positive impact, but then the energy lobby won the lobby war and now its fucked.

zumbledum:
snip

I think you're thinking about this a bit too hard. But hey!

Consider how energy from the sun impacts earth. Currently, light that comes in is largely refracted in the atmosphere, or bounced back into space from the cloud layer.

If it GETS to the surface of the earth, right now, you've got part of it hitting asphalt roads, some of which bounces off back into the atmosphere. Some of it, however, is absorbed due to the asphalt being a dark color, and is retained as heat.

However, this heat is non-permanent, and is bled off back into either the ground or the air over the course of the day as it gets cooler.

Percentages-wise, I don't imagine it's likely to impact things on a large scale.

As they're using glass, you're still getting some reflecting back off of it into the atmosphere(actually likely a much higher percentage than the asphalt), and some of it is being absorbed into the solar cells for energy instead of heat, as in the case with asphalt.

From there, the cells could either heat the cells, making it act identically to asphalt, or whisk it away to be used elsewhere as electricity. So at most, you'd get a very minute variation in ground-level temperatures during the daylight hours where roads are. Given that the glass surface is likely to reflect back a comparatively larger percentage of light and energy than the dark asphalt, it would likely even-out the amount of energy going into the atmosphere at ground-level.

So the likelyhood of it being an appreciable enough difference to have huge impacts on the weather or environment is pretty astoundingly unlikely.

Obviously to be sure you'd need to run some kind of simulation to see if there's any real impact, but but a rough thought-experiment and my gut says it wouldn't.

This biggest issue here is that they're promising the moon. I mean, smart roads offer everything but a back rub, and while I get futureproofing something designed for massive infrastructure, it increases the cost and doesn't all seem necessary. Some of the features are neat, though.

FalloutJack:
Good thought, but I see two practical problems with it.

{1} The wear and tear. All the crap that ends up on regular roads - from treadmarks to garbage to animal carcasses and so on - will end up here too, without fail. This will gradually, then greatly, inhibit the process simply by blocking the sun. You get significantly less than this on basic solar panel areas because they're not being driven on or are in generally public areas where other things happen in their midst.

This operates on the assumption that they cannot or will not be cleaned. Otherwise, there's no issue from any of the listed items.

{2} Wouldn't the heat of the panels absorbing sun all day cause tire blowouts?

As opposed to normal asphalt, which doesn't absorb sun? Most of the panels I've dealt with get less hot than your average city road, so the major difference is that one converts sun into potential to do useful (for us) work, while the other solely heats.

Jupiter065:

I worry more about how they're going to simultaneously make these things transparent enough for the solar panels to work and rough enough that it won't be like driving on ice.

Even without the raised sections, the glass appears textured.

thaluikhain:

I mean, we have the technology to stick solar panels on roofs where they don't have to worry about being driven on. Most roofs don't have these...why try to stick them on the road?

I really don't think the two are mutually exclusive.

zumbledum:

yeah i do get all that , but whatever energy we take from the system , be it solar wind tide whatever, means that energy isnt going where it used to that has to have an affect?

I'd be more worried about the drag the moon causes on the earth. And I'm not very worried.

We're talking about a fairly trivial amount, even if we're talking huge sections paved. solar cells aren't even that great at conversion and still do put off a fair amount of heat. It's not going to be significantly worse than putting pavement there in the first place. And there's a lot of other factors, which I'm almost positive if someone crunched would make any net loss not worth the energy it took.

I mean, we actually have people painting buildings to reflect more light/heat and contribute to counteracting climate change, which is going to do (comparably, remember) way more. And it's been suggested we do this for roads.

But still, everything we do takes energy from the system. Existing means we have an effect.

Areloch:

zumbledum:
snip

I think you're thinking about this a bit too hard. But hey!

heh once again i get all that , all im saying is every joule amp or whatever you measure raw energy in goes somewhere. and renewable energy gathering methods do alter it.

i also know very small changes can have very massive impacts. hurricanes only become possible with a certain sea temperature for an example.

now i recall seeing a meteorologist saying that the most we can really predict ahead is 2 hours with real accuracy we simply cant model the system it has far too many interacting parts

it just seems to me the only things we can definitively say about renewable energy, it will have an impact on the weather, and we dont know what it will be.

if its good bad small or world altering we dont know and we dont have the ability to tell. and as we have set up according to how it is, isnt any change going to be bad news

 Pages 1 2 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here