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WATCH: Sorry about the screaming, but we’re talking about Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways

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Courtesy: YouTube Solar FREAKIN' Roadways! Scott Brusaw

A viral video about a seemingly boring topic is being shared all across social media and prompting many to say, “When can we make this happen?”

The fast-talking voice in the video praises “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways” as the answer to many problems that ail us.

The video has almost 5 million views.

It urges people to get behind the solar panel project, and claims these energy-producing panels can be installed on all kinds of roads, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, playgrounds, and even outdoor courts.

Is it too good to be true? Will shoveling snow from the driveway be a thing of the past someday?

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15 comments

  • CT

    Even if it didn’t work in the grand scale, then just having this in the plaza, union station, or at the stadiums, etc., this in would be better spent money than stupidly demolishing one of the best airports in the country. I mean rather than simply wasting money to enrich construction, restaurant, vending, and infrastructure fat cats. The airport deal just makes your airport experience cost more in just about every way possible, time and money. At least a sight and function like this would bring people from far and wide and make the world talk about KC.

  • Mark Haim

    I’ve been a strong advocate of solar and other renewable energy sources going way back to the early-mid-1970s. So, anything I say here is not meant to set back the implementation of a much-needed, rapid transition to a renewable energy economy. On the contrary I want to see this happen as soon as is possible.

    This said, I have mixed reactions to the wave of postings I’ve seen this past week regarding “Solar Roadways,” something that, at first blush, sounds like a great idea, but might not be the best route to go solar big-time and quickly.

    Basically, this approach is far from proven and the costs are yet to be determined, so it is too early to make a definitive judgment. This said, I have concerns around durability, shading and cost:

    Durability: We all know how much wear and tear roadways take, from cars, but especially from trucks. Asphalt-surfaced roads need to be repaved every few years, and even concrete roads, which last longer, crack and break in a timeframe much shorter than the 25+ year usual expected life of solar panels.

    It is unclear if these solar roadways could be built strong enough to handle the weight of cars and especially trucks w/o breaking. Or, if they could be built that strong, what the incremental cost would be.

    Shading: Solar really needs unshaded locations and many roads are shaded for much of the day by trees, buildings, hills, etc. There also would be the factor, in high traffic locations, of the vehicles on the road shading a significant percentage of the solar capacity. The same is true for parking lots, as a significant portion of their area will be covered by parked cars during daylight hours.

    Cost: We know that standard panels have come way down in price, and this means solar installations are currently more cost-competitive than ever before. It seems, however, that making collectors that are durable enough to handle the weight of trucks and cars, and have built-in mechanisms to heat roads to melt snow and ice could be really pricey. Not to mention that we would also have to pay for the underground infrastructure for the cable lines and storm water removal. I just have to wonder about the price tag.

    Given that we have a finite amount of capital to put into making the conversion to an energy-efficient, renewably fueled sustainable energy economy, it makes sense to me to follow a least-cost strategy, investing first and foremost where we can get the best bang for the buck, reducing, as quickly as possible, our carbon footprint.

    An alternative: An idea I know I like is putting solar canopies on top of parking lots, of which we have huge acreage all across the country. We wouldn’t drive on the collectors, but rather we’d park under them and have our cars shaded. Not all parking lots would be suitable sited, but we’d know which ones are and there are lots of excellent locations. This same idea actually could be applied over roadways as well, choosing to install them only over roads that get lots of direct sunlight.

    Also note that while solar roadway panels need to be installed flat (i.e. with a zero degree angle to the ground), the optimal orientation for solar PV panels is at an angle that varies depending on how far north or south one is located. Panels that are correctly angled are able to produce significantly more power, and parking lot canopies that have been built already angle their collectors.

    I agree that the solar roadways concept is in some ways appealing and think it should be explored more fully. This said, the technology to “go solar” is ready to go today and we should not let the possible hope of solar roads down the pike slow down one bit the push to install as many solar arrays as we can in as many appropriate locations as possible.

    • CT

      Mark, I’ve suggested to the company to add the use MIT proven piezoelectric power generation. Even foot traffic generates enough electricity. For example, one step is enough to light a 60W light bulb for one second. All the shade and nighttime questions are answered by that. Yes, durability and MTBF are still big questions. But I suppose they are addressable with sufficient testing.

  • childrenofthetree

    I have real concerns about light pollution with all sidewalks and road lit up with LED lights. Say goodbye to seeing any stars and it would create problems for the field of astronomy. I would like to see it field tested in some small city to see how it functions in a non-theoretical environment.

    • Bill

      Light pollution with LED lighting isn’t nearly as bad as one would think thanks to the inherent directionality of the technology. Take Independence for example – the move from high-pressure SV, MV, and MH street lighting has vastly improved the light pollution situation, even with snow on the ground. The LED-backlit road striping, along with any other markings, would not have to be very intense to be seen when conpared to those street lights.

      Honestly, I’d love to see lit road striping. The solar roads though, even if they could happen, have inherent efficiency issues with oils and rubber from vehicles, not to mention a potential safety hazard with surface slickness.

      • CT

        Bill, if you take just a second to look at the website, you’ll see that the panels are manufactured and have been tested to be more grippy than current street surfaces in all situations. And yes, the prior comment from COTT concerning light pollution is horribly unintelligent.

    • CT

      Casey, completely untrue. At the end of 25 years solar panels will have lost 12.5% of their original power. Panels degrade and known rates. 1/2% efficiency loss per year. For example, After 25 years, a 4 KW system is now effectively an 3.5 KW system. PG&E has 40 year old panels still used in current power grid production.