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Power Transportation Technology

Solar Roadways Get DoT Funding 484

mikee805 writes "Solar Roadways, a project to replace over 25,000 square miles of road in the US with solar panels you can drive on, just received $100,000 in funding from the Department of Transportation for the first 12ft-by-12ft prototype panel. Each panel consists of three layers: a base layer with data and power cables running through it, an electronics layer with an array of LEDs, solar collectors and capacitors, and finally the glass road surface. With data and power cables, the solar roadway has the potential to replace some of our aging infrastructure. With only 15% efficiency, 25,000 square miles of solar roadways could produce three times what the US uses annually in energy. The building costs are estimated to be competitive with traditional roads, and the solar roads would heat themselves in the winter to keep snow from accumulating."
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Solar Roadways Get DoT Funding

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  • Oh, get real. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:02PM (#29238803) Journal

    Solid concrete and asphalt get ripped apart in short order by the combination of weather and heavy vehicle traffic, and they propose to use solar panels to drive on? I'd say it's a bold engineering project, but it's gone beyond "bold", past "insane", past "so crazy it might work", and right into "let's see if we can get dumb ideas paid for if we call 'em green".

    • Re:Oh, get real. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:12PM (#29238865)
      Well, if nobody does the work then it'll definitely never happen. I'm sure if somebody had told Newton about this wonderful thing called Nuclear energy he'd've laughed in their face. Likewise, I can't imagine anybody of that era seriously believing that we'd have the internet.

      The belief that it's not possible is just plain silly, it's not possible with today's technology, but there isn't really any inherent reason why it couldn't be done at some future date. Provided the funding and the future date is far enough off. On paper it's not that difficult of a problem, just put some super tough clear material over the top of the cells and you've dealt with the wear and tear, and solar cells tend to warm up as they receive light so the amount of damage from winter is less. And winter is when most of the damage is done by the weather, the cooling and heating isn't good for it.

      In practice it's going to be difficult to find suitable materials, but you're definitely not going to succeed if you don't try, and the roads tend to be pretty exposed anyways. It's also great for small communities located along the interstates. And presumably it would pay for a lot of the cost of upkeep on our roads.
      • Re:Oh, get real. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:17PM (#29238885)

        just put some super tough clear material over the top of the cells and you've dealt with the wear and tear

        Another laugh out loud moment. This thread delivers.

        I imagine you going to the materials engineer on retainer for your states DoT. "I noticed we're spending $30 million a year resurfacing roads. Send a little of that my way and we can solve that problem. My idea is to put a super tough material over the top and we'll have dealt with the wear and tear."

        • Re:Oh, get real. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:46PM (#29239475)

          Ironically, common, ordinary glass is a VERY VERY durable roadway surface which admits light. Anything thicker than 6 inches, and supported by compacted earth underneath, would EASILY handle the weight of a vehicle driving over it. The problem that glass has is that it has a very low reflexive modulus, meaning that it doesnt take tortion or bending stress very well at all. (It shatters.) This makes it a poor choice as a structural material for buildings, other than as the outer shell, where it's strong resistance to weathering suppliments the high reflexive moduluous of steel girders.

          For a roadway, it would work very well. The problem would be people with sledge hammers being knob-gobblers, and damaging roadways-- and other bone headed "Lets drop a super heavy object on the roadway and see what happens" kinds of faux-pas. (Dropping the great big industrial dumpster on the glass roadway would be a no-no.)

          I suggest glass over say-- recycled polycarbonate plastic (Recycled water bottles) because the former does not decay on exposure to UV light, does not leak Bisphenol-A into the ground water, is not flammable, and doesnt produce toxically accumulating microparticles from surface abrasion that gets washed out into the ocean.

          Now-- That said-- there WOULD be problems with a glass roadway.

          1) It tends to be rather slick when it leaves the factory, especially if you want it to admit light well. (Solutions might be to dimple the surface, or to make it "rough" with rounded bumps on the surface, which would actually allow it to admit and trap more light internally-- however, then it would harbor dirt, roadkill residue, snow, snow control sand/gravel/salt, and any other "able to be ground into a surface" materials, which would inhibit the solar pannel functionality.

          2) The energy costs in creating that much glass. This might not be such a problem though-- there are similar energy expenditures in the creation of concrete. (Both require kiln operation.)

          3) "Sharp particles" being produced by people being retards, and doing things to the road that one realy shouldnt do. (Like do a high speed chase on flat tires, and subsequently driving on rims, or dragging a turned over trailer down the road because you got drunk when you were at the lake-- etc.)

          4) Some other consequence I havent thought of yet.

          But, for the record-- the main reason we use asphalt as a roadway surface is because it makes a convenient place to deposit oil refinery waste. (Asphalt is a refinery biproduct from crude oil-- essentially crude oil solids.) Other nice things about are is that it doesnt rot, it self-repairs to a limited extent, can be poured/pressed into place, and makes a nice gripping surface.

          If we stop using fossil fuels as an energy source, we wont have a ready supply of asphault to resurface roadways with either-- so researching alternative roadway surfacing materials is a must if we are to move away from this doomed energy source.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jo_ham ( 604554 )

          So rather than, oh I don't know, do some research on new ways to make roads, you'll just laugh at anyone who attempts to do so because the materials we use right now are so readily destroyed by heavy traffic?

          "Super tough clear material" is non specific, but what if it's something based on carbon nano-tech, or based on current plastics but is replaceable like tarmac or concrete on a similar replacement schedule.

          You think when Galileo said "hey guys, I've been looking up at the sky a lot lately and it seems t

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're not looking deep enough. Out of this sort of funding, the main project (roadways) is most likely a throwaway. However, there is a good chance the people that develop this type of system might stumble upon a new material, process, etc. So it might not be a waste of money. I'm an optimist though.

    • Re:Oh, get real. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shikaku ( 1129753 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:15PM (#29238881)

      Concrete is solid like a rock. The reason concrete cracks in the weather is because it expands and contracts because of the temperature and water content. If the solar panels were a lot more pliable, just as strong, waterproof, and had something like the self healing plastic abilities, I think it can work just fine.

      • Re:Oh, get real. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Jedi1USA ( 145452 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:39PM (#29239025)

        One other problem with concrete is that at the "seams" (not to mention the cracks) between panels water can get through to the ground underneath. This can lead to localized soil expansion/contraction which causes stress on the concrete and accelerates the deterioration. If a lot of water gets through the ground can be unstable enough to allow the panels to "rock" then they don't line up evenly any more. I would think these large glass panels could be susceptible to the same problem.

        • Re:Oh, get real. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:22AM (#29241677) Homepage Journal

          I would think these large glass panels could be susceptible to the same problem.

          You can't pick the concrete up and work on the road surface underneath it. You may well be able to do that with an engineered roadway which is laid down in segments. Since most roads seem to fail due to inadequacies of the roadbed or the surface beneath it, this could make a big difference. An engineered roadway which was thick enough might actually help a great deal in this regard, because when it spans a hole it might adequately cover it where concrete (with no self-healing) or asphalt (whose self-healing abilities are limited and pretty well restricted to hot weather) would simply be pressed into the hole and broken; on the other hand, it might also be a liability because it might hide that kind of defect in a roadbed until it becomes a major problem.

          It would be a lot smarter to build solar railways, with solar panels between the rails, and forget about this interstate highway bullshit.

      • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:50PM (#29239113) Homepage Journal

        able to leap tall buildings and being bullet proof...

        I am not overly worried about its resilience, I am more worried about how the surface drains water and traction on when wet. Being an avid motorcyclist I dread new roadway compounds because half the time they forget that two wheelers exist. Rubber directional signs applied to road surfaces are already not friendly, I don't need more.

    • Re:Oh, get real. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rtaylor ( 70602 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:27PM (#29238945) Homepage

      For heavily used surfaces it probably wouldn't work.

      Most shoulders (in Canada) are paved and very lightly used. Most of the streets in neighbourhoods are also very lightly used (hundreds of slow moving cars per day and not tens of thousands).

      I imagine there are locations where this could be used as a surface that is durable enough. The big question mark is production cost (more expensive than current surfacing for a 50 year period) and does it generate enough to make it worth wiring it into the grid.

      The test seems very cheap. Surfacing tests of different asphalt mixtures on the order of millions are regularly done.

    • A dumb argument (Score:4, Insightful)

      by copponex ( 13876 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:43PM (#29239049) Homepage

      There are multiple solutions to the problems you suggest, but I don't even have to mention them, because others have already.

      The real problem is that you fail to understand that solutions can be found if you aren't too lazy to look for them. Yes, if the people who designed this system are absolute morons, they may have forgotten that trucks exist and are heavy. The difference between that group and you is that they are actually doing something instead of arriving at a problem, scratching their pits like their primate ancestors, and going back to throwing shit at a tree, or speculating on the NFL draft, or arguing with some lonely basement dwellers on a Friday night on the internet.

      Am I doing anything particularly important or positive? No.

      Am I therefore going to endlessly criticize those who are trying to solve it for me? Of course not. I'm glad they're working on the problem, and will be happy to benefit from it if they're successful. I'll even gladly give more money to projects like this out of my tax dollars, instead of wasting them to build F-22s at 3,000x the cost.

      Fortunately for their team, real scientists and engineers will constructively examine his project and be very critical of it. Since they aren't like you, and will continue to look for a solution instead of giving up at each impasse, they will have a better product in the end. Even if the project totally fails, they may provide useful information to others who are also trying to come up with solutions to similar problems. This is the beauty of the scientific method. Please take your ape brain elsewhere.

      • Re:A dumb argument (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jtorkbob ( 885054 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:04PM (#29239195) Homepage

        There is this thing, though, called snake oil. Politicians love it, these days even more so when it's 'Green Snake Oil'.

        • Re:A dumb argument (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:09PM (#29239221) Journal

          Maybe we should call it "Snake Ethanol".


        • Re:A dumb argument (Score:4, Insightful)

          by da cog ( 531643 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:58AM (#29239911)

          There is this thing, though, called snake oil. Politicians love it, these days even more so when it's 'Green Snake Oil'.

          There is a fascinating disconnect between your posting and the lack of actual politicians claiming that this particular technology is going to solve all of our problems, as well as a lack of companies selling this product in large quantities to a deceived public.

          Granted, it would seem that some people are really enthusiastic about how awesome this technology could be if it pans out. I fail to see how this is a bad thing. Haven't you ever gotten really enthusiastic about a project before? Didn't this enthusiasm motivate you to get started and see how far you could push your idea, even while a little part of you knew that realistically it probably wouldn't live up to all of your expectations?

        • What about CEOs? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by copponex ( 13876 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @01:10AM (#29239963) Homepage

          I'm sorry, I really have difficulty parsing these arguments sometimes, because one side is always lacking skepticism for whomever they're supporting.

          I don't trust any politicians. Just like I don't trust any CEOs. But I can be swayed by rational argument.

          Let's look at health care. On one side, you have politicians saying that we need regulation of health care to make sure people don't suffer. That's the claim - maybe it's populist, or naive, but there it is. The motivation for the politician is to get re-elected. As far as I know, the current Administration does not own industries that will benefit from this legislation. As far as I know, all the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other organizations who are funding the hatred against single payer options are at risk of losing a lot of money. By default, whose position is more suspect?

          There's snake oil out there called The War on Terrorism, and National Security, and the March of Freedom, and the War on Drugs, and so on. They cause a lot more damage and waste an incomparable sum compared to research on sustainable technology. So let's fix the dam break before we worry about puddles in the parking lot.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by volkris ( 694 )

            Sure the current administration owns an "industry" that will benefit from these regulations. THE industry, these days: the Federal Government and all of the other governments who will benefit from being the generous philanthropists, handing out health care.... to those who cooperate, at least.

            Pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and other businesses aren't funding "hatred" against single payer health care. They don't need to. People read the proposals and see their freedoms being taken away, see t

      • Re:A dumb argument (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:06PM (#29239205) Journal

        I'll even gladly give more money to projects like this out of my tax dollars, instead of wasting them to build F-22s at 3,000x the cost.

        How about if you kept those dollars yourself, and spent them or saved them as you saw fit for your own purposes, instead of the government making those choices for you? Buy solar panels if you like.


        • Re:A dumb argument (Score:4, Insightful)

          by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:36AM (#29240309)

          If the government is already spending $10k per unit of road and this company thinks it's possible to deliver a product which will already be purchased by my tax dollars (road) but have added benefits then I think it's worth a little feasibility study.

          This is:
          Space already being used.
          Money that's already being spent.
          and delivers
          Infrastructure (Grid, Data etc)
          Improved safety.

          If it worked then there would be little down side except increased up front costs.

          Do you want the government trying to get the most bang for your buck or just sticking to the tried and true without an eye for innovation?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )
      Oh, just shut up. You you have no good reason to think this won't work, this is just your biased gut reaction to anything associated with efficiency or alternative energy savings, and nothing more. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

      The two tracks that take 90% of the wear in each lane cover relatively little of the road, and this doesn't have to be cost competitive with non-energy producing roads because energy is valuable! Roads cover vast swaths of space, which is mostly wasted. So I really hope t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nitroamos ( 261075 )

      "let's see if we can get dumb ideas paid for if we call 'em green".

      Look... they were given $100,000, which is a TINY amount of money when it comes down to it. The US gov't can cough up $trillions for wars with highly uncertain energy related benefits. Compared to that, these guys have been given a TEENSY WEENSY amount of money. It's like giving your kid brother 2 pennies to make your bed for you. Chances are, he won't do it, but the cost was essentially zero!

    • Big, big brass ones (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 )

      I was right there with you.

      When I've pictured solar roads, I've pictures roads with a solar "roof" so that it's like you are driving on the bottom of a double-decker bridge. This keeps the road cool (saves fuel expenses on air conditioning) while not impacting actual driving. The only real cost is the scaffolding for the panels, which is usually dwarfed by the cost of the land the solar panels sit on. Since the road area is effectively free (or dang cheap) this is a win-win situation. Drivers don't have to

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:02PM (#29238805) Homepage Journal

    Ok, that's probably overstating it.

    This probably is doable, but I think we are years if not decades away from it being cost-effective.

    Besides, if you've seen the wear and tear, potholes, and cracks in roads around here you'd know things are rarely as easy in the field as they are in the lab.

    • Of course it's cost effective. The first 12'x12' panel, 144 sq feet, cost US$100,000. So, 25,000 sq miles x 5280 feet x 5280 feet x ($100,000/144 sqft) = . . . $484,000,000,000,000. Is that. . . 484 trillion dollars? Where's Dr. Evil's laugh when we need it?
  • yeah right (Score:2, Insightful)

    With only 15% efficiency, 25,000 square miles of solar roadways could produce three times what the US uses annually in energy

    25 thousand square miles of solar panels? I laughed out loud at that being considered a plausible solution to the energy crisis. You could power the entire world with the amount of money that would cost, using cheaper power like hydroelectric/wind. Also it would cost a fortune to maintain. Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mithyx ( 1532655 )

      ...Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on land somewhere, you don't have to drive all over them.

      This was my first thought too. Making the solar panels into roads (or vice versa) is compounding the problem. Just put the 25,000 mi^2 of solar panels in the middle of the desert and call it even. Adding a layer of glass or some sort of protective surface is going to lessen the efficiency and raise the cost of production and maintenance. I'm all about green energy, but there are better places we could be spending our money and energy.

      • Re:yeah right (Score:5, Informative)

        by bertok ( 226922 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:13PM (#29239255)

        ...Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on land somewhere, you don't have to drive all over them.

        This was my first thought too. Making the solar panels into roads (or vice versa) is compounding the problem. Just put the 25,000 mi^2 of solar panels in the middle of the desert and call it even. Adding a layer of glass or some sort of protective surface is going to lessen the efficiency and raise the cost of production and maintenance. I'm all about green energy, but there are better places we could be spending our money and energy.

        Back at uni, I did a mini-course on the the Solar Car challenge [wsc.org.au], because my University [unsw.edu.au] made some of the solar panels for the top cars, and we also had a car that entered and did fairly well (for a low budget). One of the things we learned was that solar cells lose efficiency very quickly from a variety of things. The two that most researchers ignored in the lab but mattered in the field was heat and dirt. The cars in the race are washed with cold water thoroughly at every opportunity because colder, cleaner cells are substantially more efficient. Think CPU overclocking - lower temperatures improves things a lot.

        Now lets compare this situation to a typical road which is:
        a) Blistering hot most days.
        b) Really, truly, thoroughly dirty.

        Sounds like the perfect place to put an expensive solar cell panel!

        Another thing we learned is that a single "test" panel in a lab operates very differently to a bunch of real panels in the field. What a lot of naive researchers miss is that the amount of sunlight over the entire collecting surface in the real-world is not constant. For a one-square-foot panel, it is, but for any significant surface (the size of a car, road, whatever), it won't be. The surface will be curved or partially shadowed. This matters a lot because if you just connect a bunch of cells together, they perform roughly the same as the worst of the lot. If there's a few cells under a shadow, that's drags down the efficiency of the panels receiving sunlight. To efficiently extract energy from a bunch of panels receiving differing amounts of light takes a bunch of expensive power management electronics that can combine the different cell outputs in the right way.

        In practice, cells are so expensive that the best place to put them is on huge, flat, orientable panels out in the desert where there's no clouds, no rainfall to cake dirt onto the panels, and they can be oriented to face the sun at all time, like this array in southern California [wired.com].

        • Re:yeah right (Score:4, Interesting)

          by plague911 ( 1292006 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:44AM (#29239837)
          You should also beware applying your experience with solar cells to to every solar cell. I would probably be willing to put money of the fact that you were working with monocrystalline cells. Yes using monocrystalline cells in this situation would be stupid. But to be honest the people designing these project did not even consider monocrystalline because their advantages/disadvantages do not match this project at all. Amorphous cells on the other hand match the job a lot better. Cheaper more rugged and relying more on large surface area than high efficiency.
    • Because we need to have roads, so that area is already set aside, plus apart from the roads inside of cities a lot of stretches of roads are less used, but might still be conveniently located for smaller communities. But, you're absolutely correct when you suggest that converting the whole system to solar panels is stupid. There are cheaper places to put them and cheaper means of getting electricity.
      • I think the point is this solar panel roads should be cost neutral when compared to current roads. Current roads are not nearly as durable as one might expect. If they are able to achieve cost parity with current road technology then the electric power generation is a net positive benefit. If they are unable to get the costs down or durability up then this will be a no go.

        I personally think the larger problem is surface contour and flexibility. Most roads are not flat. There are constant curves to matc

    • Re:yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by negRo_slim ( 636783 ) <mils_orgen@hotmail.com> on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:20PM (#29238909) Homepage

      Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on land somewhere, you don't have to drive all over them.

      Yes let's go tear up what's left of arable land and natural habitat for our never ending thirst for energy. People will point to the desert as if it's some vast lifeless tract of land. Which is simply not the case.

    • yeah i did some math...he mentions in the video he thinks he can get the cost "down" to $43/sq ft. 1 square mile ~= 5200x5200 x 43 ~= $1.1 billion x 25000 = $27 trillion.

      fire up the printing presses.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by madcat2c ( 1292296 )
        Your assuming mile wide lanes. Lets assume 2 lane roads. Normal 12' wide lanes means 48' of width.
        5280'long X 48' wide = 253,440sq feet per mile
        253,440sqfeet per mile X $43 = $10,897,920 per mile
        $10,897,920 per mile X 25,000 miles =

        So $273 billion or so for nationwide energy independence would be pretty cheap if you ask me.
        I cant keep my kids eyeglasses from getting scratched up every six months, so im not sure how they will keep the clear covering scratch free...if they cant t
        • by brusk ( 135896 )
          Given that the US spends over a trillion dollars on energy a year, that's a bargain.
    • But they can conveniently power our vast array of roadway embedded GPGPU supercomputers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bcwright ( 871193 )

      25,000 square miles is a lot of land to give up, even if it's desert.

      A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that 25,000 square miles is about 9.4 million lane-miles, or about 2.4 million miles of 4-lane roadway. This sounds suspiciously close to our total inventory of highway miles of all sorts, everything from Interstates down to country roads, so I suspect that that's where that number came from. I would certainly have a great deal of concern about the issue of wear-and-tear on major highways b

  • Unsafe? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalmonkey2k1 ( 521301 ) * on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:03PM (#29238813) Homepage
    I'm sure they did fairly decent testing with 4 wheel vehicles, but my motorcycle lacks the inherent stability that a car has. How bad would a surface like this be when it gets wet?
    • If it's rough enough for traction, it'll get coated with crud and work less well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arielCo ( 995647 )

      Glass as in your window or tabletop is slippery when wet only because it's smooth. It's not hard to imagine a texture grabby enough for tires: gritty like sandpaper, or a micro version of the "diamond" plate used in industrial catwalks.

      Further, since it would be on the bottom of a mold at the factory, the pattern could be made quite deep so it'd take longer for it to wear down (plus glass is harder than asphalt or even concrete). Add the right grooves for drainage, and you're set. The only remaining problem

  • by virmaior ( 1186271 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:07PM (#29238841)
    at least one of the claims here seems a little off: http://www.solarroadways.com/The%20Numbers.htm [solarroadways.com]

    in particular, this sentence: "This means that if each individual panel can be made for no more than $6912.00, then the Solar Roadwayâ can be built for the same cost as current asphalt roads." It seems to assume that an outlay of 3x the money for a road that lasts 3x as long is the same cost as 1x & 1x respectively. While this is true for someone with infinite readily available money, the reality is that most places don't have enough money for that.

    also "The Solar Roadwayâ will, therefore, eliminate half of the greenhouse gases currently being produced. " seems to be a dramatic overstatement.
    • also "The Solar Roadwayà will, therefore, eliminate half of the greenhouse gases currently being produced. " seems to be a dramatic overstatement.

      Overstatement? I doubt there's any truth at all to it. How much carbon do you think it takes to fabricate 25,000 square miles of solar panels? As if we even have the capacity to manufacture that much; entire facilities would have to be built from the ground up. We already have roads; tearing them up and replacing them would certainly be a loss compared to jus

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blindseer ( 891256 )

        I don't think the idea is to tear up perfectly good roads to replace them with these solar panel. New roads are built all the time, use this instead of the traditional asphalt for the surface. Roads wear out and need to be resurfaced, when it comes time for that the solar panels can replace the asphalt, concrete, gravel, or whatever.

    • This means that if each individual panel can be made for no more than $6912.00, then the Solar Roadwayâ can be built for the same cost as current asphalt roads.

      Sounds to me like they're comparing the full cost of the asphalt road (which includes clearing and grading the land, plus the underlayment, etc.) to the cost of the panels. Preparing the ground for the solar panels would have to cost the same if not more than preparing the ground for blacktop.


  • by SirCowMan ( 1309199 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:11PM (#29238859)
    Glass? That can not be safe, the grip issues alone would preclude it. One good jack-knife, and shards of road all over the place sounds pretty dangerous too. The biggest hang-up here is certainly not cost, but safety.
  • I can see it now. Someone will gain control of the LED functions and splash some geeky internet meme over 250k square miles of roads across the country.
    Or some ascii pr0n.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HiThere ( 15173 )

      That might pull in even more money than the electricity generation. Sell moving ads in the roadway. (ARRGH!!)

  • The end of the video talks about hacks. These things sort of remind me of LED walls..

    http://www.engadget.com/2009/06/20/giant-cowboys-stadium-led-wall-caught-playing-xbox-360-during-do/ [engadget.com]

    That's going to be insane to see a 25,000 square foot goatse staring up at you.

  • Quibble (Score:5, Interesting)

    by john.r.strohm ( 586791 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:18PM (#29238897)

    How will the oil drippings and the tire residue affect the panel output?

  • What a dumb idea. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:19PM (#29238901) Journal
    So, it snows like MAD, dumping a foot or so on the road in a few hours. Emergency vehicle has to get through, so they pop the chains on the tires.

    So much for the solar panels when a 4 ton 4WD EMT truck rolls along on at 40mph.


  • by Redfeather ( 1033680 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:25PM (#29238931) Homepage
    Another great idea just BEGGING for poor execution. Although I do have to say, the innovation aspect does sound interesting.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:30PM (#29238963) Homepage

    There was a building designed with flooring that uses the energy of people walking on it to help power the place.

    I think that solar power might be ridiculously expensive, but if they captured the hear from the road's surface and extracted the energy from that in some way, it might be quite effective and a lot less expensive. I can't speak for roads in other parts of the country, but here in Texas, walking bare foot on any paved way or even on sandy soil will result in burns in the summer.

  • Wouldn't this be terribly slippery? It's bad enough for motorbikes when they cover the road in paint, even without rain, but glass? Seriously?

  • The higher the traffic, the less sun they'll get.

  • DoT spending (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JimboFBX ( 1097277 )
    Somehow the DOT always manages to be run by idiots. How do those people get hired their anyways? A degree in something that implies intelligence doesn't appear to be a prerequisite.

    I live in Boise, ID. A very significant portion of the population here visits the non-profit skiing and recreation area about 15 miles out of town. The road to get there is a long windy path that frequently gets icey and literally has steep cliffs along the side. Last year I went up there 5 times and saw 5 accidents on that ro
  • Knowing how quickly the roads in my city turn into potholes, the upkeep on this is something I can't even fathom.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:44PM (#29239451) Homepage

    A much more effective concept is solar roofs. [premierpower.com] Rather than putting panels on top of roofs, the panels are the roof. This has many advantages. Rather than paying for a roof and solar panels, plus the headaches of attaching panels to a roof, you only pay for one surface. Mounting roof panels to rafters is easier than mounting panels to existing roofs. The wiring is on the inside, where it's in a dry space. The panels behave better in high winds, since winds can't get under them. And you can mix solar panels and plain roof panels, using solar panels only on the surfaces pitched to get the most sun.

    Roads are a much tougher environment than roofs.

  • roofing instead (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dickens ( 31040 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:59PM (#29239563) Homepage

    Asphalt roofing (what we use in the north here) only lasts 20 years or so. If you could make plastic roofing with built-in solar cells it could work, financially. A big subsidy for use in new construction would get the factories running. Then a smaller subsidy for upgrades and it could become the norm. Seems obvious to me, anyway.

    Yeah, you'd have to heat it to keep the snow off just like the roads.

  • Forget this. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sebilrazen ( 870600 ) <blahsebilrazen@blah.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:22AM (#29240229)
    Put in solar cell bike paths and golf cart paths, less weight, smaller footprint and in the case of bike paths the users are a bunch of tree huggers anyway.

    I actually think the perfect application for this technology would be the ground between railroad rails, easy transmission of the power, not a lot of wear and tear and if you suspend them slightly off the ground from the rails, some protection from the elements.
  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:41PM (#29244015)

    In addition to all the engineering nightmare problems people have already mentioned...

    You replace your car tires every few years because the rubber has worn off, right? Well, where did the rubber go? You smeared it all over the highway. A lot of it turns into fine dust, but some of it gets literally welded onto the road surface, even in normal driving when you're not skidding or burning rubber.

    All that black rubber is covering the road. The dust filters into the cracks and crevices that allow the road to grip tires in wet weather. The smeared tire goo sticks to everything. If you've ever seen a concrete highway roadbed after a year or two of heavy use, it's covered in black grime.

    One of the biggest problems people have been having with rooftop solar panels in long-term use is keeping them clean. They get dusty, birds poop on them, etc., lowering the efficiency dramatically. Highways make rooftops look as clean as a hospital in comparison.

    That said, this looks like a good use of $100K. That's chump change for government research. Have these guys make a roadway solar panel, stick it in a real roadway for a year or two, and see what happens.

    I'm willing to pay $100K of government money to put a bad idea to bed.

  • by Socguy ( 933973 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:40PM (#29245781)
    Reading through many of the comments on this site, it has become apparent that many of you are dead-set opposed to this idea. I find that a little bit surprising with all that this idea has going for it. I must confess that my first reaction was: this is a brilliant idea! Are there potential issues here? Of course, but it has so much going for it that it would be foolish to ignore it.

    Lets look at some of the problems:

    Can glass stand up to punishment? We're not talking about house glass here. Anyone who has been to a hockey game knows how much abuse glass can withstand. Truth be told asphalt requires a ton of maintenance or it quickly deteriorates. Snowplows? Of course they will do some damage, but the question is: how much? They're already very hard on asphalt roads. Dirty? Well, we may find that street sweeper technology is effective. Having said that, if we do decide to implement this idea, I suspect that we would end up with a hybrid system. It would be foolhardy to suggest that one solution should fit all. I suspect that concrete or something will take the majority of the punishing loads with these panels along the shoulders or in parking lots or sidewalks. This idea may be more suited in certain climates and not others. At least to start.

    Yes, this is more expensive than asphalt. But what are you getting for your money? If the inventor is to be believed, this surface would last 3X as long and would also incorporate the energy infrastructure of the nation. When people throw out trillion dollar numbers in regards to redoing the entire country, that's a bit of a scare tactic. Much of that money will have to be spent anyway repairing what we already have. If you eliminate some of the ideas such as the ultracapacitors and LED lighting, the costs could be brought down further.

    Future Possibilities To me, the most exciting aspect of the solar road is what sort of possibilities it opens up.
    1. The electric car is coming. Imagine cars that charge while they drive, or at least when you park at a mall!
    2. By incorporating the energy infrastructure into the roads, you eliminate the need for overhead power lines and the associated battles that accompany the building of new lines. Power lines are crucial for other renewables such as wind.
    3. If done right, you start to build the mythical 'smart grid' Certainly there are an abundance of problems that may occur, but, I haven't read anything on this site that is not solvable. Everything required to make this project work is already a proven technology. The only question-mark is if they can be combined and if governments and business will embrace this idea.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"