Solar roadways

solarroadwaysOne of those brilliant ideas that I wish I had thought of first: paving roadways with electricity-generating solar cells. Idaho-based startup Solar Roadways have been awarded $100 000 to develop their road-based solar panel technology:

The 12- x 12-foot panels, which each cost $6,900, are designed to be embedded into roads. When shined upon, each panel generates an estimated 7.6 kilowatt hours of power each day. If this electricity could be pumped into the grid, the company predicts that a four-lane, one-mile stretch of road with panels could generate enough power for 500 homes. Although it would be expensive, covering the entire US interstate highway system with the panels could theoretically fulfill the country’s total energy needs.

Furthermore the panels would create road markings with embedded LEDs.

It occurs to me that roads are the perfect media for ground-source heat pumps as the constant passage of cars heats up the road surface, even on cold days. When a new road is laid down (or an existing road is resurfaced) you fill it with the necessary pipework and plug it into the heating systems of nearby houses. Heat pumps would be more useful in urban areas of more northern, colder countries than solar panels due to shorter days in the winter.

[via Physorg][image from Physorg]

6 thoughts on “Solar roadways”

  1. How cool. Having recently driven out to West Texas from Austin, I would suggest Interstate 10 between San Antonio and Los Angeles as a perfect place to start. It runs through some of the sunniest part of the country, and has large stretches that don’t get heavy traffic (like the 600 miles between San Antonio and El Paso) so the road would get a lot of that sun.

    Hmm. If we had electric cars, and replaced gas stations with battery change-out stations, you could charge the batteries for the cars with the energy generated along the road.

    I might have to put this in a story …

  2. solar roads and ground source heat pumps for district heating…

    We have enormous resources of energy available to us if only we use our imaginations. The combination of resource efficiency and renewable energy can conceivably supply all our energy needs in a wide variety of ways. We start by imagining them.

  3. This seems kind of foolish. They probably wouldn’t last longer than a couple years and every state would probably have to buy specialized and expensive new equipment to work the roads. Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more efficient just to put solar cells on everyone’s roof? They would last a lot longer and require no new technology. Naw…let’s make this more difficult.

  4. @Chad:

    It’s a fair point re durability of solar panels, that’s why I was wondering if there might be more robust ways of extracting energy from roadways.

    Either via inbuilt heat-pump infrastructure or some other way of harnessing waste heat from friction caused by the passage of cars…

  5. I have been seeing, coming up with, and hearing ideas like this my whole life. Although I think it’s great, I’m really skeptical that I’ll ever see it come to fruition.

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