• Mar 19th 2010 at 2:57PM
  • 18
The day when the roads we drive on are as smooth as glass and replace our coal-fueled power plants is officially twelve feet closer. Solar Roadways has made good use of the cash they were awarded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and completed the first prototype of a panel they would like to see supporting the nation's traffic and electrical grid. The mockup module, which doesn't include the use of custom hardened glass with embedded heating element, solar panels or capacitors, is profiled in a series of photos on their new and improved website, and features micro-circuit controlled LEDs to "paint" situation-appropriate lines and messages. If the DOE deems the project fund-worthy after going through the Phase I reports and looking over the polycarbonate-protected prototype, Phase II will involve a "commercialization plan to begin the manufacturing process" and hopefully beget a more advanced product.

The DOE isn't the only group who's taken a fancy to the concept of having an intelligent, self-healing, decentralized power grid for a highway system. Solar Roadways also made the finalists list for the EE Times Sixth Annual Creativity in Electronics Awards for Most Promising Renewable Energy Award. The winner will be made known on April 27th. We wish them luck.

[Source: Solar Roadways]


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  • 18 Comments
      harlanx6
      • 7 Months Ago
      Panels take space, and our hiway system has the space.
      • 7 Months Ago
      If implemented, this would be amazing. I just get the impression that its going to be ungodly expensive...
        • 7 Months Ago
        I'm not sure how much money is put into maintaining and laying asphalt roads but the DOE could easily put some of that money into Solar Roadways if they like what they see. Also, the only new technology in their panels is the glass that they are creating to lay over the panels.

        Using the road to gather energy, especially in parking lots, could easily pay for itself in a few short years and save hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds of CO2 from being put into the atmosphere because it would reduce the need for power plants.

        The panels are also designed to last 20 years, according to the company.
      • 7 Months Ago
      All of these questions are frequently asked. So the folks at Solar Roadways also invented a nifty idea call FAQ and it stands for Frequently Asked Questions.

      Glass is not necessary slippery... they texture it to have the same traction as asphalt.

      Cleaning is discussed

      ----------------------

      It's a good idea, as a concept. And deserves some research money.

      But after going through the website, it seems to be ONLY A CONCEPT.

      The technology exists with the exception of cheap solar cells and ultracaps. Which the designs call for.
      • 7 Months Ago
      I'm confused (a fairly standard state of affairs so one would think I'd be used to it by now)...

      The article suggests that solar roadways has actually built a working prototype, and yet when I look at the article from the manufacturer, it appears (and I stress "appears") that there are no actual solar panels in the roadway itself. Instead, what we have is a plastic covered hunk of MDF with some holes cut out of them to allow LED's to shine through. That, by itself, is pretty much non-news (go to instructibles. com and you'll find any one of a hundred similar projects - led's in table tops, led's in walls, etc.)

      Or have I misunderstood their press release? Are they actually generating power from the panel to drive the actual led's (via some sort of an on-board storage mechanism?) That would be neat.
      • 7 Months Ago
      How many items around your house have lasted 20 years without any trouble?

      What are they going to use as a foundation if it's going to outlast asphalt? The only material I know is concrete, and if you're going to use it as a foundation you might as well use it for your surface (since it can last 50 years on roads).
      • 7 Months Ago
      "Warning, slippery road signs ahead!"
      • 7 Months Ago
      This is the most ridiculous idea I have heard of. It will cost a fortune. I read their web site and it makes so many unrealistic assumptions about cost it is entirely BS. Far cheaper to put solar cells above ground, even over the highway as a canopy providing shade to keep cars cooler if you want to use that land. Vehicles will shade it, oil and skid marks will reduce its effectiveness. Road repair is constant as is getting at sewers, electrical, phone and water pipes. Asphalt is flexible, and that leads to things like bumps and pot-holes, why? because the ground moves under it, so this rigid panel may look attractive, but in order to support you have to have a much more rigid foundation, as I said before the cost will be enormous.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Agreed... they do address the maintenance thing quite extensively...

        But you're right, it all hinges on the price of the solar panels. They claim that the costs overall will be less than conventional roads if price of each 12 ft x 12 ft (144 sq ft) solar panel is less than $10,000.

        But at they size and power they are hoping for... $30,000 is more realistic.

        And even then, the cost and performance specs of the ultracapacitors are non-existent.

        ------

        The use VERY liberal calculations and their hopes of compatible technology is non-existent.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Actually, the point of all this is that surely we have better uses for ROADS than just driving over them. We are already spending money on creating and resurfacing roads... wouldn't it be nice if we could get something else for all that money?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Surely we have better uses for solar panels than driving over them.
        • 7 Months Ago
        just maybe the road gets hit by sun once in a while..
        think a little
      • 7 Months Ago
      As smooth as glass????

      And how is this surface supposed to enable for any friction with the shoes/tires?

      Not a bad idea overall, but I also think this will be extremely expensive.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Technically as smooth as textured glass. It's all on the site.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Every single one of you needs to go back to school, and focus on Reading Comprehension. Either that or you're paid to post negative/FUD comments.

        The article CLEARLY states that this is a prototype unit, which does not include everything that the final product would have.
        The final product will have a asphalt-textured glass composite on top, and the composite will be several times tougher than any current road surface. Take a look at the website.

        Those that believe that driving on solar panels would not provide power:... how many roads do you know of that have a vehicle covering every inch of every 8ft/12ft wide lane during every minute of the day? The point is that the whole road system is a grid, and if replaced with these SolarRoadway units, would provide a grid power system and distribute power as needed. So the highway with a ton of traffic on it isn't producing as much, but the side-roads, neighborhood roads, and parking lots provide all the necessary balance. (plus some)
        • 7 Months Ago
        "Smooth as glass" means no stopping when it gets wet. You can make concrete be as smooth as glass and if you do so then it means that cars can't stop.

        It would be funny to see the cost/benefit analysis for this technology and to see someone try to defend it. How is it cost effective to drive on solar cells? Hello, wear and tear. If they have a durable, cheap solar cell material than put it on a roof.
        • 7 Months Ago
        I would love for this idea to gain "traction" and this company to change the world, so I hope that they can bring the costs down to the point where it could be competative and real production can begin. At this point, they are basically just toying with the concept though.

        As for the traction issue, the idea is to create a textured glass surface that gives at least as much traction as asphalt. Traction is prbably one of the easier issues that they will have to deal with in reality. Personally, I think the most difficult issue will be keeping the surface clean... Self cleaning glass sounds all well and good, but have you really looked at a parking lot surface for example? Big oil slicks where the cars park, and somehow I bet that smooshed used chewing gum is going to defeat "self cleaning glass". People are pigs, the smartest road will still have to conquer the dumbest, lazyist human... and good luck with that.
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