I know this is a bit of a break from my normal posts, but it interests me so hey – here goes.
There has been a lot of activity on social media about this recently so I decided to do a little research into the feasibility of the idea, here’s my five word summary:
It is an amazing idea.
There are a few questions that need to be answered (i.e. the safety of driving on glass) but in principal it sounds great. So lets talk about why it’s a good idea.
One of the main issues with large-scale electricity production from photovoltaic cells is the land use (here is a government paper from the US discussing the problem http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/56290.pdf), the same issue that other energy production methods have. If we turned the roads into giant solar panels we could solve this issue of land use, and some estimates I’ve heard say that it could create three times the current electricity usage of the United States (I am a little skeptical of this figure though, I’d like to see their sources). What isn’t in contest however is that the road would be self-funding, it would certainly produce enough energy to perform all of the tasks they’re looking for.
Reduce Carbon Footprint
This could massively reduce the carbon footprint of the western world, in more ways than the obvious. Yes it would reduce the western world’s reliance on fossil fuels for energy production, fantastic, but it could go further than that. One of the main problems with electric cars at the moment is the inconvenience of charging them*, but with the laying of the new roads, charge points could be built into the new layout (say every 20 miles on motorways?) making it much more practical to own an electric car.
* although the Tesla company has been making great strides in the efficiency of electric engines, and some cities have charge points now.
Part of the plan is to build an LED lighting system into the roads along with detectors to warn of any road blockage or danger ahead (one example is wild animals crossing the road). Night driving would be much safer and cost efficient, lighting the road instead of street lights and relying on car lights in areas without lighting.
Each cell also contains a heating element, so no more ice and snow accidents!
Never mind it producing it’s own energy and fueling the western world, the road would be cheap and environmentally friendly. Instead of pouring hot and smelly bitumen onto the roads that lasts a relative five minutes, each hexagonal cell is made from recycled glass and can be replaced individually as a unit.
Part of the system design is electricity and phone cables built in a protected channel beside the road, replacing overhead wires, preventing repair costs from storm damage.
In essence Solar Roadways are an amazing idea!
Here, look for yourself
Everything you want to know in 6 minutes
The Inventors Website
and some articles looking at it negatively (do not fear change people, embrace it)