Solar roadways: The idea almost sounds laughably like science fiction, but the reality may be closer than you think.
One company in Idaho is working to make solar roads and parking lots a reality. This company, appropriately named Solar Roadways, has already received several rounds of government grant funding and conducted a successful Indiegogo campaign.
Solar roadways are driving or parking surfaces that are paved with heavy-duty solar panels rather than asphalt or concrete. These solar paving panels are able to passively generate electricity any time that the sun is shining.
The solar roadway panels not only generate electricity, but integrated microprocessors and wireless technology allow for many exciting scenarios.
These new and improved roadways could improve the operation of driverless cars, dynamically change pavement markings in response to changing conditions with integrated LED lighting, reduce the need for plowing and chemical deicing by including electric heating elements in the panels, and even alert motorists to animals or debris in the road through integrated pressure sensors.
Traditional roadway paving materials are expensive to install and maintain, but other than facilitating transportation these traditional roads do not return an economic benefit. Solar roadways, on the other hand, still facilitate transportation, generate electricity, and can actually lessen road maintenance costs – particularly in winter by reducing or eliminating the need for chemical deicing and plowing. Roadways built using this type of solar technology could also improve roadway safety by reducing collisions with animals and allowing remote or automatic adjustment of roadway markings based on traffic conditions to improve safety. Improved traffic safety can reduce insurance and accident repair costs as well as reducing medical costs and disability due to injuries sustained in highway crashes.
Solar roadways also have the potential of creating “green jobs” in manufacturing of components and installation of the materials. These new and improved roadways can also enable recharging of electric vehicles without needing to rely on energy generated by burning fossil fuels.
Passive solar electricity generation reduces greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas electricity plants. Solar Roadways estimates that if all the roadways in the USA were solar the electricity generated would be several times what is needed to power the entire country. The technology also creates the possibility of solar-powered recharging stations for electric vehicles further reducing fossil fuel usage by making electric vehicles a more realistic option for many drivers.
Solar roadways may not be ready for widespread use just yet, but they do offer some exciting and interesting possibilities for the future. Solar roadways hold promise of generating electricity without fossil fuels, making roadways safer, and improving traffic flow.
Do you think solar roadways are key to America’s future? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!