US Solar Roadways Plan Hitting Snags
Solar Roadways have raised more than $1 million through crowdfunding website, Indiegogo. Their idea is an extremely ambitious one of replacing the US nation’s roads with solar panels. The husband and wife team of Julie and Scott Brusaw, are now past the design stage and will now move from prototype to manufacturing, in what many consider to be a dangerous stage for any technology project. The dream maybe still is a long way off as the logistics of actually pulling off this project are massive.
The project has received two rounds of funding from the Federal Highway Administration and the Solar Roadways team have built a prototype parking lot that is constructed with solar panels, microprocessors, and LEDs, which are encased in a textured glass. The firm says it can withstand the weight of a 250,000-pound truck.
The idea is actually pretty feasible and if the team does pull it off they could replace all the nation’s asphalt with solar panels in the process generate more than three times the electricity the US uses.
Solar Roadways’ design would filter stormwater, prevent icy roads by melting snow, replace above-ground power cables and light up to warn drivers if a large animal, such as a moose, wanders onto the road.
With all these good points, what is there to go wrong? Well, unfortunately, the list of obstacles is a long one. The main issue is cost. Science writer Aaron Saenz wrote in 2010, when Solar Roadways was first getting national attention, “Sure, we could pave the streets with solar panels, but we could also pave them with gold…There is roughly 29,000 square miles of road surface to cover. We need roughly 5.6 billion panels to cover that area. That’s a price tag of $56 trillion!”
Saenz says the numbers which the Solar Roadways team have used, has overestimated the cost of asphalt. He thinks that Solar roads are 50 percent more expensive than traditional roads and he is not alone. Joel Anderson, a business editor for Equities.com, said, “The Brusaws have been unable to secure any piece of the more-than $2 billion a year spent on solar research and development around the world…Probably because there’s too many more-practical, more-promising investments to be made to seriously consider this pipe dream.”
The Indiegogo campaign does not address the cost issue, and the Brusaws are unclear about what exactly the $1 million will buy. “We need to make a few tweaks to our product and streamline our manufacturing process so that we can make our panels available to the public as quickly as possible.”
Most of the technological challenges appear to be solvable. Like how to keep the roads clean, how to increase the efficiency of the panels and how to store the solar power. The idea seems great, but I think the logistics and pricing issues will snag up the implementation of the project.
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[Image via hashslush]