Recently there has been a lot of buzz going around about this video introducing something known as “Solar Roadways”. Solar Roadways are conceptual roadways that use modular panels to replace ordinary asphalt roads. These panels are incredibly versatile on top of their obvious function of acting as a source of energy. It was recently predicted that if every road surface in America was replaced with these panels that we would produce 300% of our nation’s energy requirements, as well as reduce emissions by up to 75% Link. If you read my previous post, you recognize that improvements like these are exactly the direction we need to be headed, and this idea alone would be able to tackle many national issues. America’s carbon footprint would be reduced, and as one of the greater contributors to the issue this is an immeasurable positive. On top of this, if we become energy efficient, our economy would no longer be so attached to events in large oil producing nations in the Middle East. If we could store the surplus energy and export it, our economy would receive yet another substantial boost. These aren’t even the end to the benefits.
Structurally, these solar panels are nothing short of incredible. They have been tested to support 250,000 pounds (Semis are only allowed an 80.000 pound limit) and have a number of safety features built in. The panels act as heaters, meaning winter driving will be made much safer. The panels have computer-controlled LED lights as well that can create road lines and instructions that are easily visible in night and day. Night driving is made even safer by the fact that panels will light up when an object is resting on it that a driver may not be able to see. For all you animal lovers this means a lot less road kill so you can rejoice in this fact.
The nature of the modular panels makes maintenance easy as well. Don’t you get tired of what seems like perpetual road maintenance during the summer? Well long delays are things of the past potentially. Technicians can access the panels from the sides of the street if there are electrical issues, and if a panel needs replacing it is a very easy swap.
These perks of solar roadways don’t even cover the number of jobs that would be created for the implementation, production, and maintenance of these panels. Click here to watch the video.
The upsides seem boundless, but this concept s not short of critics by any means. With a project of this scale, the money required is not chump change. As of now, each panel costs $7,000 to produce. This cost decreases as production ramps up, but we are still looking at possibly trillions of dollars in labor and production Link. Now when weighed against the benefits this number is slightly less daunting, but still mountainous. It would take some number of years to recover the costs, and frankly the panels have not been tested extensively enough to know how they would hold up to their responsibilities. Issues with staying clean enough to absorb sunlight as well as being efficient in colder climates remain to be resolved, and it is hard to predict what the outcome will be. They have not shown inability yet, but time will tell. Where this process needs to start is on small scale projects and as data is collected see how beneficial these solar roadways prove to be. Until then, we can just hope that this technological breakthrough isn’t just another dream.