Solar Roads: Driving to the Future

If Back to the Future is any indication of our real future, we won’t need roads. As cool as it would be to have flying cars, our world is stranded with realistic ideas. This is why a couple from Idaho has designed a solar roadway that does more than just support our infrastructure.

The idea of a road paved with solar panels has been kicked around for years, but no one has been able to efficiently create a proper alternative to current roads. These Hexagonal Solar panels are linked to create a network that;

  • Absorb sunlight to produce energy through means of the built in solar panels to provide electricity for homes and businesses.
  • Can replace power lines as the main means of transporting electricity throughout cities.
  • Withstand 250,000 pounds. Currently, the Federal weight limit for heavy vehicles is 80,000 pounds.
  • Utilizes LED technology to illuminate roadways and safety lines. Considering a study done in the United Kingdom, LED marker illumination can reduce nighttime accidents by 70%.
  • Has the ability to melt ice and snow using heat generated from stored electricity. On average there are 467 deaths due to icy conditions each year.
  • Also can change shapes, creating additional handicap spots if all remaining are taken.

Smart roadways are a natural technological step in the advancement of infrastructure, and can be considered a priority in advancing cities. The team that created the tiles is beginning with a parking lot as the initial public trial, and then will move on to bigger projects. The Federal Highway Administration has acknowledged the product and guided them in establishing the ability and store and move storm water through the tiles.

According to their Indiegogo, they are attempting to stay away from large investors as a way to keep jobs in America, which is similar to the strategy, piloted Elon Musk and Tesla. While this project is revolutionary, it is important to keep in mind the economic risks with a new technology. In order to advance, the environmental and economic risks must be weighed effectively and allowed to expand to the market naturally. This blogs’ current advice would be to;

  • Work with toll companies to create a private grid that can expand the technology, while allowing the company to sell off the power generated by the tiles.
  • Remain unsubsidized by the government, and instead work with American companies such as Google and Tesla to keep jobs in the United States.
  • Attempt to rework the tiles as roof shingles, in order to reduce the amount of upkeep involved in roads and allow consumers to purchase them independently. Roadways are generally government expenditures, and it would leave no access to independent homes aside from driveways and patios.

Keeping renewable energy in the hands of the private sector is an important task going forward if renewable and sustainable technologies are to continue advancing.

Comments (2)

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  1. John says:

    I really like the policy recommendations at the end of this article. Even more specifically, offering an X-Prize as incentive to innovate the private sector would really be effective as it would spur competition, which eventually generates the most effective ideas. While I really like the idea of solar roadways, the timeframe is VERY long-term, as roads would have to be shut down for indefinite periods of time to install these tiles. I think one thing this article does is avoid the timeframe question altogether, which makes me worry that this project is not very feasible. It may not even be enough to solve the climate change problem by the time we have reached the tipping point. The idea is great in theory, I just don’t know how realistic it is to do so across-the-board. With that being said, having a project like this that could be incrementally installed would do wonders for our workforce! Refer the article attached from the Brookings Institute: http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2014/infrastructure-jobs#/M10420.

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