We are and have always been children of the sun. Without it, we perish, for one reason or another. It heats, it feeds and helps power our world. It’s our most basic status quo throughout history. Thankfully, acceptance of this is not universal and as our technology moves forward the sun just may be the answer to our energy issues.
Solar power research and projects seem to be everywhere in 2015. We can see everything from scams to science just by clicking on the television. It all functions to some point but, when and what is finally going to be viable… and affordable? Modern photovoltaic cells, also known simply as solar panels are only about 10-15% efficient at this point and are an addition or retrofit at best and are guaranteed to function for about 15-20 years according to a U.S. manufacturer. So, if we’re going to use them, we need a lot of them and they need to be easily replaceable as the efficiency improves.
The United States alone has almost 4,000,000 miles of roadway in existence and there’s nearly 11,200,000 miles throughout the world. If you drive or own any type of vehicle, you also know that most of them need repairs. What do you think of the concept of a solar road? Repair the roads and generate energy without having to sacrifice more land to corporations and unnecessary building? Here is where the tech actually IS at this point in our timeline.
In 2009, a company called “solar Roadways” received a contract from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration to build the first ever Solar Road Panel prototype. These panels would theoretically be made from layered glass sandwiched with solar cells, load cells to detect weight, led lights and a wire element comparable to the rear defroster in an automobile’s rear window.
2011: Solar Roadways designs have shifted to a hexagonal shaped panel for greater ease of installation around curves and over hills and a 36 x 12 foot (108 panels, 432 square feet) prototype “parking lot” has also been built. After being fully completed this prototype generates an average of 5200 watts of energy and is predicted to last up to 30 years.
October 2013: The George Washington University in Virginia installed the first solar-paneled walkway in the world. It is 100 square feet, produces approximately 400 watts on a clear day and is backlit by Leds embedded in the panels. Excess energy is funneled into the campus power grid.
November 2014: The Netherlands’ TNO research institute opens the SolaRoad. The world’s first public used solar power generating pathway (which can actually be seen on satellite maps at 52.493875, 4.767134). The 100 meter long (330ft) test road is made up of concrete modules with one of its two lanes encapsulating solar cells covered with a layer of tempered glass. At roughly 3800 square feet this roadway is producing about 16,000 watts… which is enough energy for a one person household.
Multiply this by as little as 100 times. With efficient lighting and deicing built right into the road surface it’s not only a production of clean energy it’s a reduction of fossil fuel energies. It seems a positive in every direction. Electric cars could now have greater range than internal combustion powered vehicles because charging stations could be installed anywhere along a road that creates its own electricity. To take that one step further, electric vehicles could charge while driving, thanks to the beauty of mutual induction. That technology is already in place it’s just not easy to accomplish with asphalt road. Can you think of a downside?
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