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China Transportation Power Hardware Technology

China Is Building a Solar Power Highway (electrek.co) 131

China is building roadways with solar panels underneath that may soon have the ability to charge cars wirelessly and digitally assist automated vehicles. "This second solar roadway project -- part of the Jinan City Expressway -- is a 1.2 mile stretch," reports Electrek. "The building technique involves transparent concrete over a layer of solar panels." From the report: Construction is complete and grid connection is pending, but is expected to be complete before the end of the year. The Jinan City solar highway is formed with three layers. The top layer is a transparent concrete that has similar structural properties with standard asphalt. The central layer is the solar panels -- which are pointed out as being "weight bearing." The bottom layer is to separate the solar panels from the damp earth underneath. The road will be durable enough to handle vehicles as large as a medium sized truck. It was noted by engineers that wireless vehicle charging could soon be integrated and automated car functions could take advantage of the inherent data in this this already wired roadway. No details were given on which solar panels being used. Two separate sizes could be seen from the images. It looks like the solar panels are covered with a film to protect them from workers moving over them. Notice in one picture there is an individual sitting down with wires showing between the solar panels connecting them.
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China Is Building a Solar Power Highway

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  • so they can mow down their citizens with brand new tanks.

    • Many, many years ago I had the opportunity to see an asphalt road after a tank had driven over it. Left a few scratches. I think you probably won't want steel treaded vehicles meandering down your solarized roads.

      If they work well enough to care about after a few weeks of ordinary use.

      Which seems unlikely.

      OTOH, this can't possibly be as crazy an idea as it sounds.

      • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @11:28AM (#55796115)
        Solar panels in the highway road bed is a terrible idea. The transparent top material, quickly scratched and covered with a film of oil, will drastically reduce the efficiency. Consider yourself lucky if you get 5% after the first year of use. And the panels must be armoured against the weight, so they cost x3 the price to start with. A much better plan is to build a roof of standard roof top solar panels over the highway. The panels are tilted to the sun so they get more light(higher efficiency), no covering (higher efficiency), standard solar panels (cheaper), can be changed out easily (easy maintenance), and you drastically reduce snow removal costs (would probably pay for this over 10 years).
  • Silly Chinese. If they'd only read Slashdot comments, they'd know that solar power is unpossible and they'd go back to scrubbing coal clean like the US and get their jobs back and be great again. I mean, it's not like the Chinese have ever been any good at big public works projects, anyway.

    • The problem is that the physics doesn't work.
      • Physics does, practical materials don't.
      • The problem is that the physics doesn't work.

        You've got some derp on your chin, O' Great Defender of All Things That Appear Slightly Sciencey From a Distance.

        (Hint: If the physics didn't work, the engineers wouldn't even complete their design! Engineering is a math-driven field. The plans were not drawn up by neckbeards on slashdot.)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I certainly wouldn't get my hopes up. The project director is Mr. Sun Dun Gawn, the project manager is Fu Ling Yue. Their US business arrangements are through the offices of Dewey, Cheetam, and Howe located in Harvard Square. Technical assistance is provided by Paul Murkey of Murkey Research, assisted by Marjorm O'Error.

    • unpossible gets a win.
    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @05:20AM (#55794951)

      solar power is unpossible

      Not a single comment has ever said that.

      What they have always quite consistently said:
      1- Solar PV is inefficient.
      2- Solar roadways is one of the least efficient ways of making solar PV.
      3- Solar roadways doesn't make sense if you have roofs that are not yet covered or land to spare.

      China doesn't need to read Slashdot to understand this, they just need to take highschool physics. But while you're being quite facetous about big public works projects which China are very good at, they mostly do it for busy work and utterly fail the cost benefit analysis of doing them.

      Only some 1/3rd of the major logistic infrastructure projects make any sense, all the rest do is put the country in debt: https://academic.oup.com/oxrep... [oup.com]
      Heck there's entire books describing how China builds almost entire cities that end up as virtual ghost towns: https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-C... [amazon.com]

      Mind you when I lived there it was incredible to commute to work. An 8 lane highway with maybe 2 cars on it. Traffic you could only dream of.

      • What they have always quite consistently said:
        1- Solar PV is inefficient.
        2- Solar roadways is one of the least efficient ways of making solar PV.
        3- Solar roadways doesn't make sense if you have roofs that are not yet covered or land to spare.

        Also: 4- There's contradictory material requirements for road surface properties and solar panel surface properties (friction, load-bearing, transmittance, cleanliness etc.).

      • Heck there's entire books describing how China builds almost entire cities that end up as virtual ghost towns: https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-C [amazon.com]... [amazon.com]

        Heck, there's also entire books describing how Donald Trump is the best president of all time. https://www.amazon.com/Trump-L... [amazon.com]

        And by the say, that Donald Trump book has five stars and your book about how those stupid, stupid Chinese don't know high-school physics only has four stars, so checkmate.

        • True, but one of them is fact easily verified with a simple google search, and the other alt-facts.

          Heck there's people who come up with the best ways of studying which cities are empty (looking at light pollution compared to surface area, internet connectivity, speed of advertising, etc)

          • You have to admit, you see a lot of anger towards solar energy in Slashdot comments. No matter what the story's about, if it has the words "solar energy" in it, there will be Slashdotters who are mad.

            • Yeah I have noticed that as of late. Though ... Solar roadways I think is one concept which is well deserving of it.

      • My take on this is that it's got nothing to do with efficiency or practicality, and it has everything to do with the 'optics' to the rest of the world (i.e. China being an attention whore; "Look at us! Look at us! We're technological leaders! PAY ATTENTION TO US, NOT THE WEST!"). Just my gut feeling is that this 2km stretch of highway would cost at least 100 times as much as a normal highway with solar panels on poles next to the roadway, will be a fraction of the efficiency, and will last a fraction of the
        • I'm not sure about that. You see this goes long before the Chinese were trying to be technological leaders. It kind of underpins the economics of the country, the busy work to keep employment at zero percent. The Chinese throw incredible funds at projects that seem to do nothing other than keep the wheel turning.

          Funny story, on the way to work one day I saw a semi-trailer (lorry, truck, b-double, whatever they call them where you are) which had jackknifed, slid across the side of the highway and knock out 4

          • Your story reminds me of how Pyongyang in North Korea is so modern and prosperous-looking, yet the rest of the country and it's people are starving and living in poverty. China seems to do the same thing: lots of stuff for how it looks on the surface, but never mind any actual substance. I'm not saying that here in the West (I'm in the U.S.) we don't throw a coat of paint on things to make them look better, but China (and North Korea, since I mentioned it) seem to do it an order of magnitude more often.
      • solar power is unpossible

        Not a single comment has ever said that.

        Over two hours before you posted this, and higher up on the page, was one claiming a "physics" problem with it. So no.

        When you start thinking you know so much more than the engineers that it means the engineers didn't understand "high school physics?" That should be your hint to self that you're full of shit. ;)

        Chinese engineers seems to be able to build bridges and world-class hydroelectric projects, they're probably using the same physics as other engineers. And of course, "high school physics" isn't what

        • You were very quick to reply without understanding a single thing I said. Let me help you.

          was one claiming a "physics" problem with it.

          Physics is a problem, that doesn't make it unpossible, just not viable.

          When you start thinking you know so much more than the engineers that it means the engineers didn't understand "high school physics?"

          Highschool physics will get you where you need to go. Incident light, reflection, shadows, damage.

          That should be your hint to self that you're full of shit. ;)

          Fortunately I don't need to rely on highschool physics since I am an engineer who does exactly this sort of thing. But hey even if I weren't and even if I didn't we could always see how the concept has worked before, like that multi-million dollar solar

  • What will happen when the road is all covered up with bumper to bumper traffic?

  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @02:17AM (#55794583) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if they tried transparent aluminum...

    Seriously I don't understand the impulse to put solar panels in roadways... Durability, spilled oil, scratches from studded tires or flat tires, less than optimal angle, difficult to access for maintenance, etc. , etc.

    • by kanweg ( 771128 )

      It is double use of land. Ever been in China? I haven't but a friend of mine has been several times. One time he took a long (some four hours) train trip from one major city (million plus inhabitants) to another. On the map you could clearly see the city boundaries. From the train, you couldn't. There were buildings/houses everywhere.

      But in some countries they don't value resources.... ....

      • Building them into the pavement surface is such an expensive and ineffective idea, that it would be better to build a structure over the road, and put standard panels on that. You can even make panels translucent - the cells are thin enough that some light gets through them, so you just need to use a transparent rear panel - so the roadway is adequately lit even under the panels.
      • There were buildings/houses everywhere.

        So right next to the roadway there's a much larger set of surfaces that could support angled solar panels, that are never in the shade, and where trucks won't drive over them?

        I'm all for dual-use, but some pairings just don't make much sense.

  • I thought the whole thing was thoroughly debunked... not as being any kind of deliberate scam, per se, but debunked as being even remotely possible to achieve the kinds of ends that the creators were trying to sell.
    • It was, the concept doesn't work. But China doesn't make decisions based on sound logic. Just like any other government they make it based on whoever's highest up in the power structure. And whoever that is just said "Solar, Fricken, Roadways!" and gave somebody a couple million. It's the same reason they put a ton of money into super computers that can only run lincpack quickly, instead of actual, useful HPC stuff. The same reason they're pouring hundreds of millions into molten salt reactors instead of fu
      • This does give them the ability to experiment with ideas that we won't even try. I'm highly dubious about the solar roadway idea, but because China will build at least one of these wacky things, they have a better chance of making some technology work that we wouldn't even test.

    • Actually, a bunch of neckbeards with one hand on the keyboard talking shit about something they don't understand isn't actually what "debunking" originally meant.

      Etymology doesn't determine meaning, I know, I know.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm glad this is being done.
    When it fails, the people that have looked at all the other solar-roadway failures will have yet another data point to use towards killing this stupid idea. Seriously, just put the panels next to the road. 90% of your problems solved right there!

    Instead, the true believers will come back and tell us that, like communism, solar roads have just never been done right.

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      Don't worry, the technology will get just good enough!

      And somehow the regular solar panels won't take any advantage of the improvements despise being the same thing, except better.

  • This kind of response is completely necessary, since the days when you could just go out into the countryside and find five or ten square miles of contiguous land which you could purchase is long gone. At this point roadways are some of the cheapest land available, and experience has shown that roadways are very easy and convenient to access for maintenance. Combining roadways with transmission lines should provide clear gains, as you always gain from synergy when combining unrelated operations into one s

    • This kind of response is completely necessary, since the days when you could just go out into the countryside and find five or ten square miles of contiguous land which you could purchase is long gone.

      None of the continents in which solar should be particularly effective are short on deserts. There's plenty of space for solar arrays.

      • You might find that there are still land-use constraints.

        You could always just test it; go to a desert in your country, and ask the local authorities if that means the land is free and you can build a solar farm anywhere you like. Then you'll know if these complaints were meaningful, or just blathering nonsense.

        "But officer! Look how much space there is here! Who cares about ownership?!"

        • You could always just test it; go to a desert in your country, and ask the local authorities if that means the land is free and you can build a solar farm anywhere you like. Then you'll know if these complaints were meaningful, or just blathering nonsense.

          Well, you're right in a sense. That land is usually owned by a government, which might be corrupt enough to shit on your solar project like BushCo did with proposed solar projects on BLM land. Meanwhile, they were happy to grant permits to drill for oil...

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @02:38AM (#55794617) Homepage Journal
    Shout out to Thunderf00t and Dave EEBlog Jones who have gathered all the successes and failures of the concept. Especially Dave who walks through the watt/sq meter math and shows how it comes up short, no matter how you slice it.
  • How come I've never heard of this (and I read slashdot regularly! :)

    Seriously, if this isn't an April fool's joke (it isn't April 1 according to the Chinese calendar is it?) how come this TRANSPARENT concrete isn't a much more widely known building material? I mean, something with the load bearing strength of concrete with even just translucency and not good transparency would revolutionize architecture wouldn't it?

    I once read (pre-internet days) that "Architecture is Man's conquest of light" or something

    • um duh, transparent or translucent amalgamate instead of rocks. My driveway, patio, and sidewalk have been like this for decades. The Romans figured it out a couple thousand years before I was born.
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @03:07AM (#55794663) Homepage

    I absolutely do not understand why anyone would consider embedding solar panels underneath clear concrete[1] for a road.

    I'm not an engineer but wouldn't the weight and/or vibrations from cars and trucks, over time, possibly mess up the electrical connections or the panels themselves? If so, how do you fix them... dig everything up, throw away everything, install brand-new panels?

    If you figure it makes sense to combine solar power with roadways, why not invest in a really tall roof, and let the cars drive under the solar panels? The roof would keep rain and snow off the roads. If there's a wiring problem, workers could get to the wires and just fix them, or swap a faulty panel out. The roof angle could be chosen to help collect sunlight; under-the-road panels you don't have any choice of angle, the panels must be flat. And all the panels would get sunlight all the time, rather than being shaded as vehicles drive over the panel.

    In my state there is a section of an Interstate highway that has a tall roof on it; I think it has something to do with winter snow. (The highway department does avalanche control there from time to time in winter.) So I know this sort of roof is at least possible.

    Building a roof tall enough for all possible highway traffic sounds annoying and expensive to me, and yet it still sounds like a better idea than burying solar panels and driving on them.

    [1] I didn't even know clear concrete is a thing. Google doesn't return much about it but I did find a 2004 BoingBoing article [boingboing.net] that has two dead links about it.

    • I absolutely do not understand why anyone would consider embedding solar panels underneath clear concrete[1] for a road.

      I'm not an engineer but wouldn't the weight and/or vibrations from cars and trucks, over time, possibly mess up the electrical connections or the panels themselves?

      I don't know but It sure is nice that somebody is ready to build something like this and find out. This is not the first project like this, there is 1km stretch of solar road in Tourouvre-au-Perche that powers the village's entire grid of street lights. Meanwhile Trump is working hard to take America back to good'ole patriotic coal, oil and gas (cue patriotic music and warm fuzzy patriotic feelings). Renewable energy companies in N-Europe, Germany and China are celebrating Trump as a bonus period of 4-8 ye

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        This is not the first project like this, there is 1km stretch of solar road in Tourouvre-au-Perche that powers the village's entire grid of street lights.

        The Colas Wattway generates electricity at about 9 times the cost for half the power of a nearby solar farm - https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

        The problem is that is the biggest installation available, and it still sucks - when you can have a solar farm installed for way less money ($1.57/watt for the solar farm - the solar roadway costs $6/watt for the pa

    • Thank you for your concerns.
      Why don't you not at least simply read the summary?
      Should I link it again?

      • by steveha ( 103154 )

        I read the summary and the story link that was in English (and I looked at the one in Chinese). If you believe that the answers to my questions were already provided, please show me what I missed. I didn't see anything about why the panels should be in the road.

        I didn't mention the wireless charging part, but you could do that by itself without burying the panels. And I saw nothing about how to repair, or about long-term wiring issues due to weight and/or vibrations.

        Also I will be truly impressed if they

        • Te summary clearly states that weight is no problem, hence you have no repairs bellow the surface ... just read it again, or read the article.
          No idea why you are asking pointless questions for a one mile long research experiment.

          • by steveha ( 103154 )

            Te summary clearly states that weight is no problem

            It does? Here's a quote from the article:

            The road will be durable enough to handle vehicles as large as a medium sized truck.

            Why does it say that the road would be limited to only having medium-sized vehicles on it, if weight is no problem?

            hence you have no repairs bellow the surface

            The summary says no such thing. Maybe you think the summary implies it, but I disagree. Roads take a lot of abuse and frequently need repairs. Roads with electronics buried

  • connectors all over the place. Many many humans wandering around 'waiting' for the 'boss' they have never met to come show them exactly what to plug in where.
  • This post really nails the new reality of our world. People in the US coming up with ways things shouldn't work, while other countries make those things work. It's too bad stupidity dosn't lead to innovation.... the US would be #1 indefinitely, but miles and miles..
    • Remember the elevated bus ?

      http://money.cnn.com/2016/12/1... [cnn.com]

      • by meglon ( 1001833 )
        And? Remember the internal combustion engine... the airplane... vaccines... building fires.... and pretty much EVERY OTHER THING we've ever done that has worked out? Pointing out one thing that failed doesn't mean everything will fail... that's just an asinine argument on, well, every level. If the only thing you got is really stupid strawman arguments, at least make them entertaining so we're not laughing at their utter ridiculousness (in a bad way).
        • The point is that some things that people call stupid are just stupid. The solar roadway is one of them. And just because someone in China is pursuing it, doesn't mean it can't be stupid.

          • by meglon ( 1001833 )
            It certainly could fail... the one in Netherlands performed better than they anticipated, though. There were a lot of people thinking those horseless carriage contraptions were stupid too. I'm saying, innovation doesn't happen because people sit around complacent and never trying things, and people in this country seem more and more to think thumb-up-ass-doing-nothing will keep us competitive with the rest of the world.... it won't. If we loose those races to place like China where they have the people a
            • people sit around complacent and never trying things

              I didn't say that. But if you're going to try things, it's better to try things with higher chance of success, like solar panels that don't have cars driving on them. Let's try putting them on a roof instead.

        • Remember holographic storage, jet packs, flying cars, fusion power?

          World Peace?

          Me neither.

    • We almost certainly are #1 at this, if you just find the right measurement to take.

      Perhaps the more stupid people who believe everything they don't understand will fail that you have increases the rate of invention, because of a smaller number of people trying to prove them wrong? To get the effect though, you have to let the stupid people have complete freedom of speech, especially freedom to insult the rich and successful.

      It would explain the contradiction between the US having so many stupid people, and

    • Remember how NASA couldn't get a peer review for their paper explaining how a reactionless space drive (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RF_resonant_cavity_thruster) worked due to US scientists claiming it was impossible, while at the same time, China announced production of a spacecraft that incorporating the new drive (https://www.popsci.com/emdrive-engine-space-travel-china-success).

      Next up: US scientists dispute round-earth hypothesis as well as denying latest evidence that earth is not the center of the u

  • Others have already pointed out the impractical nature of this investment, but the idea could see niche applications. For example in remote warehouse type arrangements for autonomous vehicles moving around a shared space or travelling show go-karts that never need to stop.

    • My wife bought her sister a fancy watch that has a translucent white plate behind the dial. It looks white and pearly, very nice, like a normal decorative watch, but actually it hides a PV cell that charges the watch. You never wind it, you never plug it in, it doesn't have to be worn and moved around, but as long as it receives at least normal indoor light for a few hours a week, it will stay charged. It just runs "forever" without maintenance.

      This is actually going to be tech that is in most products in t

  • Ditto for railway lines. Panels under a road is a silly idea, but there's more than enough wasted space at the edge of most major roads, which are often on embankments or in cuttings. Let the panels at least approximately face the sun, don't cover them with traffic, tyre dust, and other assorted grit, then it might make physical sense, or even commercial sense.

  • Translucent concrete (Score:4, Interesting)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @04:48AM (#55794871) Homepage

    The article says the new highway will have transparent concrete over the solar panels. Google didn't find much for me on "transparent concrete", but "translucent concrete" finds stuff.

    http://illumin.usc.edu/245/translucent-concrete-an-emerging-material/ [usc.edu]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translucent_concrete [wikipedia.org]

    P.S. I found the above by first searching for "transparent concrete" and Google found a BoingBoing article [boingboing.net] with only a little info. But after reading the introductory sentence I searched for "translucent concrete Aron Losonczi" and found lots of stuff.

    • by lorinc ( 2470890 )

      Take that, Transparent Aluminum!

    • From the wiki:

      Due to bends in the fibers and roughnesses on the cut surfaces of the fibers, light transmission is generally a bit less than half the incident light on the fibers, so given five percent fibers, about two percent.

      OMG. They're taking a nominal 750 Watts/m^2 of solar energy hitting the Earth, sending it through concrete which is 2% transmissive, collecting it with solar panels which are 16% efficient, embedded in a flat surface which will yield only a 14% capacity factor? That knocks the ener

      • It is not really relevant how long it takes to charge an EV.
        Relevant is: how much energy does an EV comsume while traceling that distance, and how many EVs are going over this particular part of the road in a day.

        • by steveha ( 103154 )

          Relevant is: how much energy does an EV comsume while [traveling]

          I will now attempt some back-of-the-envelope calculations. Corrections cheerfully accepted if I screw anything up.

          Desired: a highway that can use solar power to drive all its traffic. We assume all traffic is electric cars of comparable efficiency to a Tesla Model S. (Note: the article specifically said that the road was to have no heavy trucks on it.)

          Rule of thumb: one kilowatt-hour is good for about three miles of driving [greentransportation.info]. (It's actually

          • It is not necessary to break even.
            The EVs have a battery.

            So if you are close to break even with such a system, you extend the range of an EV greatly.

      • "I did the numbers and didn't uncover a good reason" does not tell you anything about the people who designed it, or which professional associations they're a member of.

        Actually it implies that you are not an engineer, not that they are not engineers.

        And if we're starting with the knowledge that the device was in fact designed by engineers, then it just gets worse for you. ;)

  • How will they remove the stains from tires? Regular cleaning?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I've read that all cars will be clean in the future.

      • Even if we assume an all-electric future, cars will still drip lubricant and slough off rubber dust, much of which will stick to the solar panels and have to be cleaned with whatever special techniques they have to devise. Electric cars will be on the average lighter than IC cars, but the weight will still require ruggedized, super-expensive panels.

        If we want to harvest energy from roads, concentrate on the solar heating of those matte black surfaces. Is there some some cheap thermocouple material that we c

        • You are now the tenth or twentieth saying this.
          Why do you think a solar power road is more oil, slough, rubber dust or other dirt covered than an ordinary road?
          If there is oil on the road it gets blocked and cleaned ... the guy responible fined, if found.

    • They'll build scrubbing and polishing pads into the tires. ... and make new, high quality soil to use on their artificial islands in the South China Sea from the material the tires pick up off the road.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Saturday December 23, 2017 @09:33AM (#55795565)
    My guess is it probably won't work very well..

    I can come up with a lot of reasons it probably won't work very well.

    But that isn't how this technology stuff works. Petrochemical internal combustion engines didn't rise form the sea, perfectly formed like Venus. An incredible difference between a huge hit and miss engine and say, my 4 cylinder Jeep Engine. Power, weight,maintenance all in favor of my not particularly notable engine otherwise. The old engine has torque and steampunk cool.

    Any Slashdotters think we should have stopped improving IC engines at the Hit and Miss stage?

    There are certain aspects of getting electrical power from those long ribbons of highway that make attempts to extract that potential pretty interesting.

    Will this work? Probably not. But its certain that it won't work if it isn't built. It is their money.

  • Have you ever been to China?
    The sun is a dull orange disc at best on most days, barely visible through the pollution.
    I'm not exaggerating.

    Residents of Jinan like paintings with blue skys in the same way that Australians like pictures of a snow-covered Christmas.

  • when the US did great thing like that. Now we can't even fix areas destroy by natural disaster, have more and more people going hungry and homeless.

    But, hey, at least we keep cutting taxes!

    You can trend US's greatness in innovation, infrastructure, creation right to taxes. Higher taxes, the better we have done.

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