I am absolutely wrapped up in the idea of solar roads at the moment. No, this isn’t sci-fi, but a fantastic (and yet strangely obvious!) idea dreamt up by husband and wife, Scott and Julie Brusaw of Ohio, USA, operating as the company Solar Roadways. I am so fired up about this idea!
Their basic premise is that roads should be built of solar panels rather than traditional asphalt. This may sound ridiculous on the surface (pun most definitely intended), but considering that glass can be used to make pretty much anything, there is nothing in theory, or indeed in practice, to prevent the realisation of this fantastic idea. You need to put the idea of driving on a window pane right out of your head. Glass is far more adaptable than that, and the glass experts have already confirmed that traction would pose no problem and would be at least as good as that provided by asphalt.
Based on very conservative calculations (15% efficiency of solar panels at 4 hours of peak daylight per day – apparently there is technology available that will double this), Solar Roadways have estimated that by replacing the US’s road surfaces with solar surfaces, enough electricity could be produced to power the USA’s household requirements three times over.
Slightly increasing this conservative figure of 15% would allow the US to meet the electricity requirements for the whole world!
It’s simply one of those ideas that has an increasing number of ‘wins’ to it the more you think about it…
- Clean, green, energy for nothing – surely the one thing we as humanity must move towards.
- Roads with LEDs built into the surface allow for information to be displayed on the surface itself to warn of congestion, etc. and light up the road stripes at night.
- Replacement of elecricity pylons with roads – use roads to convey the electricity – less visual impact on the environment. The advantages of this factor alone are massive, including an extremely flexible power grid structure, capable of dealing with outages and not susceptible to weather.
- Built in heating elements, to keep roads ice free in winter.
- As the surface is built of panels, road maintenance is suddenly much easier and faster, and any repairs to services can be carried out very quickly, with minimum disruption to traffic.
- Solar road surfaces are expected to last three times that of asphalt roads, so although the production cost may be higher, the production cost balances out (and that doesn’t include asphalt maintenance costs – repair, painting, snow removal).
- The cost of asphalt is increasing rapidly, with the increase in the cost of oil.
- Opportunity to easily embed new technologies into road surfaces – each panel could have a unique address and microprocessor, allowing important vehicles to be tracked easily.
- Reduced dependency on oil from the Middle East – and all the political ramifications of this.
- Massive reduction in greenhouse gasses.
- Deployed in the Third World, solar roads could have wide-ranging benefits to developing nations, from the social to the political sphere.
Of course, such technology could be rolled out to car parks and private driveways too.
Last month, the US Department of Transporation awarded Solar Roadways a $100,000 research contract, so it looks like the powers that be are getting very interested in the whole concept.
If the US alone could supply nearly the whole world’s energy requirements through solar roads, imagine what would happen if other nations adopted it. We’d have more electricity than we could possibly need! A decision to adopt solar roads could be one of the key turning points in our development as a species and geopolitics.
I have contacted Top Gear (I think they should spread the word) and will be contacting my MP too.