So there’s a fledgling company that has created the world’s first solar road. More than that, it is a ‘smart road’. What does that mean exactly? Well I will explain in greater detail below, but to start let me note that they have a fully tested and functional prototype series that has been installed and tested. Second, they still have five days on their Indigogo crowd funding to begin building a factory and already have one and a quarter million dollars raised! The real question is how many cities are going to be brave enough to install them? We’ll see I suppose, but the calculations make it pretty clear just how much power these things provide could eliminate any fears about power consumption for a long time to come. If the US manages to triple it’s power use, then maybe we would worry (assuming every road was converted, not including parking lots and walkways).
Before you start trying to smack me for thinking this is at all okay, don’t forget that in the right configuration and treatments, glass can come close to steel in terms of strength. I did mention the semi earlier right? Obviously a solar panel needs to get light through and so a special textured and tempered glass is used. The texture provides traction and prevents glare. Tempering of course makes it incredibly durable. In truth, these can take more abuse than a standard road can.
You Don’t Paint Solar Roadways
Obviously, even with 100 percent solar coverage offered by the finished version, you can’t paint over a solar panel without significantly reducing its power output. The solution worked out was to embed led lights into the panels. Most impressive about this is that you can program them to all sorts of situations. They can create the obvious lines in the road we are familiar with, but could do any number of other things too.
For road applications, they can divert traffic around accidents, mark parade routes, mark road construction, offer warnings of animals in the road or any other number of options. In a parking lot, they might allow for variable numbers of handicap parking spaces if all of the existing ones are filled up. At home, you could make your driveway a basketball court or hopscotch area with the flip of a switch. The options are endless. Best of all on this is that studies have shown a 70 percent reduction in road traffic with lit road lines.
Solar Roadways vs Snow and Ice
So if you can’t pain them, what happens when snow accumulates? The answer is that the snow goes away. Heating elements in each panel can automatically melt snow and ice that appear on them. Cities that adopt these can eliminate the need for snow plows and road salting. Both the owners of cars and the city can be a lot happier when that happens.
The first trench is there for obvious reasons. You need somewhere to run the power lines that are associated with this dispersed power grid. They also serve another purpose though. They have the space to allow phone and cable lines to be brought down as well. Even easier to access than the pole lines, but with none of the risks of failure from snow, ice, storms or drunken pole removals. That second trench? It is there to divert rain water and collect it. The trench can divert water to a processing facility or store and treat it from within the trench itself.
Science Fiction Turned Science Fact
Seriously, this is the stuff of science fiction. A decade ago, the idea of a world where there were no power plants, no wind farms, no fields marred by endless solar panels would have been laughable. The idea of roads that just automatically react to the presence of animals, people and cars was insane. It appeared in cartoons and the most out-there scifi in the far-flung future. And now we have it. Proven, usable and ready to move into full scale manufacturing. This is an amazing development and I for one can’t wait to see how it goes in the first place to adopt these. If you are as interested as I am, check out their website at www.solarroadways.com.