The Future of Solar Roads
What would you say if we told you that you can DRIVE ON the future of solar? Because that’s precisely the idea behind replacing asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with solar panels.
In 2014, an Idaho-based company called Solar Roadways drew $2M in funding with an online fundraising campaign for its hexagon-shaped “smart” road tiles. These tiles contain solar cells, LED lights, a heating element, and wireless communication capabilities. The concept was so impressive that the company has received three phases of funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for research and development. This funding allowed Solar Roadways to install its first prototype in Sandpoint, Idaho, in September 2016.
And solar roads are being tested in China, too. A Chinese company has created a complex polymer panel that resembles plastic and has slightly more friction than a conventional road surface. The company continues to test for the right amount of friction, and continues to figure out a way to reduce costs and increase the panels’ resiliency.
Paved Solar Advantages
To many, solar roads are a no-brainer. But if you aren’t already sold on the potential benefits of solar roads, the numbers should present a compelling case.
More Electricty Generated at Less Cost
According to the International Journal of Electrical and Electronics Research, if the United States interstate highway system were surfaced with roadway solar panels, it would produce more than three times the amount of electricity currently used nationwide. Those highway panels would need to be replaced less often than asphalt and could produce about $15 per square meter per year of electricity.
In an already growing job market, the increased need in solar panel development and installation brings even more jobs to the construction industry and the solar industry.
Cleaner Energy Generation
Green energy is good for the environment and the economy. And though there are several green energy options, solar energy reduces pollution and reliance on fossil fuels.
Safer Road Conditions
Roads equipped with solar panels can actually improve road conditions affected by foul weather, mitigatating the effects of snow and ice through heating fixtures inside each unit that keep the surface a few degrees above freezing. This eliminates the need to use tax dollars on salt and salt trucks, and has the potential to minimize traffic jams and accidents caused by the buildup of ice and snow on highways. The solar road panels would be equipped with LED lights for better night-time driving.
Future Scope of Paved Solar
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are more than 4 million miles of highways and streets across the United States. But the solar road technology isn’t exclusive to highways and streets. The panels can be used on driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, or really any paved surface.
So why aren’t we starting to see more solar roads?
There are still plenty of issues with solar roads, like decreased efficiency, expense, effects of wear-and-tear, and risk of theft - but executives are hopeful and confident that the technology is ready.
Each panel costs approximately $7,000 to produce, but the price decreases as production increases, and wide-spread deployment of solar roads would possibly cost billions of dollars in labor production. Even if the cost for full highway implementation is too high, solar panels would still be useful in smaller areas such as parking lots and sidewalks.
The Solar Possibilities are Endless
Whether you’re curious about the latest solar innovations, green energy tips and tricks, or installing residential solar panels, IGS has information on the latest trends in solar.