.....Solar Roadways? Only One Way to Find Out If They Are a Pipe Dream


An outfit called Solar Roadways claims it is practical to replace asphalt roads with solar cells. A YouTube video crunches a few numbers to cast doubt on this claim. Count me as skeptical as well.

An outfit called Solar Roadways wants to replace asphalt roads and parking lots with solar cells and claims this idea is practical based on the tests it has run so far. The company has received some SBIR money and has given a TEDx talk on the subject which is viewable on its web site. 

But count me among those who have yet to be convinced, even after reading the FAQs the company put up meant to address critics of the idea. Unfortunately, the FAQs come off as a bit of a hand wave. Far more convincing is a YouTube video put up by a vocal critic:

Other media outlets have commented favorably on Solar Roadways' idea, but their dismissals of criticisms leveled so far don't inspire a lot of confidence among engineers who've been through a few development efforts "Ambitious, yes, but the Brusaws' small protoype — built as part of a contract with the Federal Highways Agency — is already generating electricity," breathlessly reported one source.

Of course, there is a bit of a difference between a small prototype generating electricity and a roadway able to hold up under 18-wheeler traffic for a few years. 

Only one thing is likely to begin silencing skeptics on a thing like this: A functioning section of roadway built from the stuff that still works a year of so after it goes live. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 10

13ChallengerSRTCore (not verified)
on Jun 3, 2014

Start with some underused stretches of Route 66...

Randolph Garrison (not verified)
on Jun 3, 2014

Excellent presentation. Proves all the points I saw the first time I was told about it.

longidealist (not verified)
on Jun 4, 2014

Golf carts running on inductively coupled solar roadways for re-charging. To add to the solar cells on their sun awnings. Metal studded golf shoes not permitted. Compare inductive coupling with conductive charging. Or try out at federal site that uses small people movers.

Allen (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2014

I don't know what you're saying. Are you saying that we should ride golf carts that recharge on the solar roadways? What happens when we need to move freight? Do we just amass a small army of golf carts? We have tractor-trailers for a reason. Golf carts suck at moving freight.

Tony (not verified)
on Jun 11, 2014

Just the cost of Glass would bankrupt the country immediately and glass is not a solid material. just imagine what it would look like after one week of tires grinding dirt into it. Realistically speaking, we have better chance of seeing unicorns than this. This is a get free funding for a "sound good" idea that obviously will not work/

juniper28 (not verified)
on Jun 17, 2014

Or perhaps just use the middle stripes only for solar cells. Most people don't drive on that middle line - much. They would see far less loading/stresses - and there's just as much space - in a linear kind of way.

Anon (not verified)
on Jul 1, 2014

Or perphaps just use the median section of highways, or the millions of acres of rooftops, or the millions upon millions of acres of unused desert. With the price of solar falling rapidly, and PV penetration only just now starting to register..........why not focus on the low hanging fruit?

I admire their ambitiousness, but solar roadways fail the engineering sniff test, and they also fail any type of non-technical cost/benefit analysis one could dream up.

on Jul 1, 2014

First Glass has been reclassified as a liquid.
asphalt is a residue from cracking crude oil and thus inexpensive in comparison.
Any vehicle attempting to break on a glass road in inclimate weather will prove to a disaster.
Project is a fools mission. Parking lot covers, replacement roofs, solar track, road side visual corridors, could be more acceptable.

D G Chestnut (not verified)
on Jul 1, 2014

Several years ago I would have questioned the possibility of the idea myself. However with advances in science and technology I have begun to think anything is possible when the right group of people put their heads together.

Keep dreaming. Nothing is impossible!

Michael Mahon (not verified)
on Jul 7, 2014

Actually, some things *are* impossible.

"You canna' change the laws of physics!"

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