Solar Freakin’ Roadways- 5 Concerns Analyzed
Solar Roadways, I know most people have been in support of the new blossoming technology and I’m happy to be a part of that [at least in support]. However, no matter where I turn there are a handful of common concerns that are brought up against the technology. Well today I wanted to go over five of the main concerns. I also wanted to take a peek into what the future could look like, with solar roads.
1. Roads wear down, how the f%^@k are these supposed to handle any better?
I’m actually surprised that questions like this keep coming up. Scott Brusaw has twenty years of engineering experience behind him, as an engineer myself you should know that this would be one of the first problems that would have to be solved before you would even think about this problem seriously.
The results? Right from the FAQ:
The biggest concern for testing was the structural integrity of our panels. We had to make sure that our panels had enough traction, strength, and toughness to support heavy trucks on our nation’s highways.
We had our glass traction tested, load tested, and impact resistance tested at university civil engineering labs around the country. It passed all tests with flying colors.
Also keep in mind that they load tested the damn things, a funny question from the FAQ was if it could hold a tank on the roadway, the response was
A M1A2 Abrams tank weighs about 68 tons, or 136,000 pounds. That’s a little over half of what our Solar Road Panels have passed load testing for.
Bolded the important part for anyone who might miss it. Also I found out from that question he is a fellow Marine, very cool.
So yes, I understand the big fear and of course it will wear. Inevitably all things will need to be replaced. But read on because that is where this project really shines.
2. What about Cost?
What about it? Look out your window… go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back. See that road outside, it’s just sitting there, lazy, not doing anything. We might as well put it to work for us. Most people want a phone to multitask now, why should our roads be any different?
The cost of setting up the system would be offset by the amount of electricity that would be produced by the roads. So you might be all for lazy roads, but I for one want my road to get a freaking job and it looks like they just got hired.
The modular nature of the road allows it to be replaced individually, this means that when one wears or goes out, pop it out and put a new one in. Simple, unlike the way we do roads now [ever drive over a pot hole, or a crappy patch job?].
But wait, there’s more!
We would not have to shut down the roads like we do now to repave, just shut down a lane for as long as it would take to remove one and replace it. Paying people to repair roads cost money too, imagine how much will be saved from it taking less time. Also think about it, the road would be a lot smoother just popping broken parts out and putting new ones down.
3. Ever try to walk on glass, imagine how slippery they would be when it gets wet.
This is another, what I would like to call, LOOK UP WHAT AN ENGINEER DOES question. Mostly because it is a dumb question that would be answered right away by the engineer before proceeding on to anything else. Seriously, one of the first problems with design, if not the first.
The solution? Well I would pull from the FAQ again, but I’ll write my own. The glass has texture, which makes it rough. This will allow a vehicle to stop just as well, if not better than typical roadways. The freaking things melt snow, I mean how much better than normal road do you get? In fact, the same goes for: walking, biking, sliding, cartwheeling, or hoverboarding, nothing would change but the material under your feet. Sure it would take some getting used to, I mean come on we’ve been staring at the same color of sidewalk since any of us were born [most likely], but that shouldn’t deter us.
4. Decentralization=bad, costs go up.
I actually had a comment saying decentralization was bad. Wrong, I hate to say it, but WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! So why is this a good thing?
Well remember a time the power went out? You wouldn’t if we had solar freakin’ roadways! Centralized power is horrible, transmission lines, power converters, etc. all energy eaters we don’t want that for the eco friendly future.
Centralized power is why you have those ugly wires going from a pole in your yard to your house. It is why you have to worry when a huge snowstorm hits that you will lose power, or worse, downed power lines.
As far as cost goes, who owns the road? The government? No, it is state, city, county, etc. the system is already decentralized cost doesn’t go up because of that.
Decentralization saves money. Mostly because you don’t have to pay for shipping. If we make solar freakin’ roads locally we won’t have to pay to have them shipped halfway around the world or even from another state. You know what that does to the local economy? I’ll tell you, it creates jobs.
5. Why not just have solar panels on homes instead?
Great idea, you’re buying… right? Solar roadways have the advantage here too. They will be paid for by whoever owns the road, sidewalk, parking lot, etc. This is good because there is more space out there, then on my roof, trust me I’ve checked. It also means I don’t have to fork over a whole lot of money for an investment that won’t pay me back right away.
Doing it this way also creates jobs, the American economy [okay world economy] is in the toilet. The fastest way to pick it up out of the toilet [it’s okay, you go first] is for the government to hand you a shovel and say dig. Or in this case hand you a solar panel and say build.
It’s how we overcame the great depression [any history buffs remember the alphabet soup programs?]. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and fix our infrastructure, we need this, our future needs this. So why would you be against creating jobs that will pay well and are self sustaining [the roads need to be worked on often, I mean look at our current road system now].
As a fellow engineer I was mulling over the implications something like this could have. Right now scientists have developed a supercapacitor that can be used as building material. As in, you could use it to handle dynamic and static loads [or for you non-engineer types, you can put a lot of weight on it and it will work just fine].
Imagine a world where your house is a giant battery, charged by the roads you drive on. Supercapacitors store far less energy than a battery does, but scale it up to car or building size and you have a lot of energy potential.
Electric cars have two big problems, the first is range. People freak out when you can’t just fill up and go, most electric cars have roughly 180 mile range before you are out of juice. It scares people, even though 90% of people will never drive that far in one trip [outside of traveling].
The second problem is the battery. I mean, come on batteries are nasty, they cannot be recycled very easily, and they are made of things I wouldn’t want to feed my cats [okay there are a lot of things I wouldn’t feed them, sue me].
Imagine a world where your car is charged by mutual induction [a fancy way of saying charging just by touching it]. You could almost completely eliminate the need for a battery in your electric car [since you would never be away from the power source]. The weight savings alone would improve performance, not to mention the supercapacitor frame the chassis could be built from, for when you want that extra power.
Say bye-bye to ever running out of juice, with electric roads as long as you stay on the road, your electric car will never read anything but full. The substantially smaller battery needed would also mean that the high current cost of an electric car would be brought way, way down. Making an eco friendly technology even more eco friendly.
So what part of this are you against? The job creation? The eco friendly? The saving the economy? The putting the freakin’ road to work? The better road systems? Or maybe it’s making the electric car cheaper and better for the environment?
Well, I guess you can’t make everyone happy…
Westover A.S., Tian J.W., Bernath S., Oakes L., Edwards R., Shabab F.N., Chatterjee S., Anilkumar A.V. & Pint C.L. (2014). A Multifunctional Load-Bearing Solid-State Supercapacitor., Nano letters, PMID: 24823645