OK, you’ve probably seen info on Solar Roadways already, as links have been zipping around Facebook like wildfire, but it’s pretty cool. I’d seen bits and pieces of this info over the past several months and I, frankly, thought the project was further along that it appears to be. In fact, they’re still in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign … although with 4 days left they’ve already gone half over their target. They evidently are still focusing the product, as if you look through the info, they went from large rectangular panels to what look to be about 18″ hexagonal panels to 12″ hexagonal panels, and they mention they’ve now made them smaller than that (without specifying exactly the new size).
As far as I can tell, they only have one test installation in place, and that’s out back of their workshop (see the pic above), but they’ve run heavy equipment over it, and abused it in various ways, and I guess it’s worked great so far. In one picture on their site they have one of these hexagons disassembled and it looks like the upper surface is around an inch thick slab of (recycled) glass. I’m guessing that going to smaller units would help avoid cracking, as they’re less likely to have more than one weight on them at any time. In the pics of the set-up, it looks like one needs to have metal rods inserted into the roadbed onto which these get bolted (see the four holes on each), which suggests that doing this as a road surface will involve a LOT of effort (although repairing roads would be much easier since it would be simply a matter of replacing modules). However, according to info on their site, if all the current blacktop/cement (roads, parking lots, sidewalks, etc.) surfaces in the U.S. were converted over to these panels, they’d end up easily (their “numbers” section puts the figures through a whole series of reductions for various factors) producing three times the electricity that we currently consume!
What’s really cool about these is how they do other stuff aside from being a road surface and producing energy. The units they’re currently testing have embedded LED lights, pressure sensors, and individual microprocessors. This means that if, say, a large boulder dropped onto the road surface, there could be warnings printed out before cars got there. It also means that on-road markers (lane lines, etc.) could simply be illuminated as needed, and, again, providing information of what was coming up ahead. For other surfaces, they could be programmed for various sports, so one playground could have hopscotch boxes when the little kids were out, and be configured for a basketball court when the bigger kids took over. It also can keep itself snow/ice free with heating wires that would keep the surface above freezing in the winter.
There are several very interesting videos on their (rather rambling … they mention that neither of them are marketers, and it shows) web site, but they just recently came out with this “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways” one that I figured I’d share:
Obviously, with this surface producing electricity, there is going to have be to some wiring involved … and the plans include a sort of a trench along side the road which not only has the power cabling, but will feature wifi cabling (virtually eliminating any cell dead zones), as well as a channel to drain off and treat storm water. Again, I had hoped that this was a bit further along than it appears to be (they’re operating out of far northern Idaho), but it would certainly be great if this got traction and started spreading across the country.
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