Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

Creeperbane2Creeperbane2 Victorian ScoundrelIndianapolis, IN


This so needs to be a thing globally!

Comments

  • Sounds like a cool idea. With induction charging, they could also charge electric cards while on the road. Kind of like Super Mario, but in the ground and not bumper car style covered in fungus. However, asphalt and concrete provide a lot of friction, glass not so much. I don't think I'd want to drive on a glass roadway.

  • SonorousSonorous F@H Fanatic US

    Imagine the road noise from that! All those little knob things in the glass and the gaps between panels would be like driving on cobble roads. I don't want to be all doom and gloom, but this obviously is just a concept. How well would you be able to see the LEDs during the day if they are below a layer of glass? I'm skeptical.

    _k
  • NullenVoydNullenVoyd Orlandish

    It's been interesting to see this concept grow over the years, and I LOVE the concept, wish it could be a reality, but I also highly doubt it will go anywhere -soon-. All the technical details you can iron out, make better, add traction, make visibility excellent, improve reliability and lower cost.

    BUT

    Beyond folks adopting this for their own property, the resource cost (initial investment, labor, manufacturing, maintenance, etc) is going to be FREAKIN' unbelievable. Even if you could get total cost down to, what, 10-50 cents a panel, it would be trillions to even get started.

    Possible? I wouldn't totally rule it out. Probable? Eh, not in this political and social climate, even if we totally ignore the economic climate.

  • BandrikBandrik Elkhart, IN

    Love the idea, unoptimistic of its feasibility.

    I could see this for private drives and parking lots for stores that want to REALLY show they support that "green" movement stuff. Likely popular in California and other high-sun areas that could use more energy offsetting. Not so much for our public roadways.

    As a Northerner, I would love to see roads that melt snow automagically without the need of salt and other corrosive substances.

  • RyanFodderRyanFodder Detroit, MI

    As someone playing with casting things:

    You can make the glass whatever surface shape you need to 1) provide traction 2) reduce noise 3) keep as thin as possible.

    That being said, the economic feasibility will be the real problem. What is the payback period? 10, 20 years? Who pays for the initial investment?

  • @Bandrik said:
    As a Northerner, I would love to see roads that melt snow automagically without the need of salt and other corrosive substances.

    This is already possible, just put some heater loops in the pavement when building the road (see radiant floor heating).

    @CannonFodder said:
    That being said, the economic feasibility will be the real problem. What is the payback period? 10, 20 years? Who pays for the initial investment?

    This. Sure, transforming every road in America could produce plenty of energy, but how much is that going to cost? Wouldn't it be cheaper/easier to install/maintain large solar arrays out in the desert?

  • _k_k P-Town, Texas

    They skip over the fact that producing power for the country in this manner is impossible because you can't just make power from solar cells and then transmit it, you have to run it through a sub station since it has the wrong voltage for long distance transmission. They demonstrate it is tough by running a hobby tractor over it.....a semi without a trailer weighs more than that and the highways are designed for fully loaded semi-truck transport not cars because the weight difference means cars have almost zero impact compared to transport vehicles. What happens when someone needs to move a directional driller across this surface?

    Batteries. Lots and lots of batteries. Lots of Ni batteries all over the country and when the array has partial failures you loose road lanes for X miles.

    They are talking about road but are missing the massive potential for real application. Make it a sidewalk where failure has a heavy tolerance level. This would keep the walk surface clear during winter seasons, provide power to street lamps that most cities turn off throughout the year to save millions of dollars, and can provide illumination for those using it at night so they can possibly see to a greater distance then normal increasing possible security in dark hours. Not even that but you could deploy these on roofs in the north so they melt the snow as it falls decreasing some building needs and allowing for a slight amount of run off collection to be distributed through out the year.

    Adding a top layer like that means you provide protection to the cells and create an industry solution to how to filter certain types of light out of the general spectrum so you can focus your panels into specific wavelengths increasing efficiency.

    Roadways are built a certain way for a reason and because people drive cars.

    primesuspectSignalGnomeQueenBobbyDigi
  • BandrikBandrik Elkhart, IN

    @ErrorNullTurnip said: This is already possible, just put some heater loops in the pavement when building the road (see radiant floor heating).

    True, but I mean I would love to see it widespread, regardless of what tech is used.

  • I read an article about these surfaces a few weeks back. The engineers who pioneered this technology seem to be pushing it for use in large parking lots at this point (they mentioned they are looking for a company to partner with for a pilot lot). Basically, it sounds like they're looking more for green companies that want to use them to generate their own power and reduce their reliance on the grid, or sell energy back to the grid where applicable. That makes more sense to me. If I had the money, I'd consider using these for a driveway were I to build a house.

    _kThe-Gentleman
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI
    edited May 2014

    k said:
    They are talking about road but are missing the massive potential for real application. Make it a sidewalk where failure has a heavy tolerance level. This would keep the walk surface clear during winter seasons, provide power to street lamps that most cities turn off throughout the year to save millions of dollars, and can provide illumination for those using it at night so they can possibly see to a greater distance then normal increasing possible security in dark hours. Not even that but you could deploy these on roofs in the north so they melt the snow as it falls decreasing some building needs and allowing for a slight amount of run off collection to be distributed through out the year.

    Nailed it.

  • The cost of refactoring infrastructure and maintenance is unrealistic and so are the safety hazards of walking, driving, or biking on glass. Solar panels just become less efficient if you add roughness to the surface, and they are already a pretty inefficient form of power generation. The reason power is generated in far away plants then plugged in to an existing grid is not because nobody has thought of this kind of thing before, it's because it is the most efficient way of doing things (for now).

    Also, this notion that it is good to have hot surfaces to walk and drive on just because it would melt snow is ridiculous. Are you going to walk on a hot surface bare foot? Does it make sense to park cars with rubber tires on hot surfaces? Maybe it's not hot enough to melt rubber, but it will fuck with your tire pressure. Don't forget rising heat on to your gas tank, brilliant!

    Many municipalities already have small solar panels on top of street lamps and have switched them to LED lamps. It requires no refactoring of existing infrastructure because you are taking a power supply and hooking it up directly to the only item it is meant to power. This is efficient to install and easy to maintain. That's the future of energy, except on a building level. When solar panels, batteries, and fuel cells are efficient enough, then each home can have independent power with the grid as backup. That isn't incredibly far off, and dumping hundreds of billions of dollars in inefficient unsafe infrastructure projects that would be outdated in 20 years is stupid. I do appreciate the marketing propaganda of the video though.

    ====

    If anybody wants to excited about something realistic, read this and learn about the both physical and political challenges of a modern power upgrade to existing infrastructure and one solution that may very well conquer them.
    http://qz.com/151801/why-solarcity-and-tesla-are-going-to-replace-your-utility/

    Now they may lack the genius behind viral marketing to get the word out because they aren't desperate for funding yet, but still I decided to use my mad marketing skills to do it for them with help from a celebrity friend of mine.

    BasilCanti
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI
    edited May 2014

    To be fair, though, they don't need to be "hot" to melt ice + snow... 40F would do it, WAY cooler than parking on an asphalt parking lot in high summer.

    RyanFodder
  • RequitRequit That one guy Somewhere over there, I don't know
    edited May 2014

    While I agree that the price to redo the roads is astronomical, from the tests they claim to have done (completely unbiased source, I know), it's supposed to have the same amount of traction as asphalt. It's not like they're using the panes of glass you find in windows or on smartphones. And solar panels are rather inefficient. It takes a lot of surface area to generate the same amount of energy a coal plant a faction of the size can produce in an hour. Guess what offers a ton of surface area? All the roads in the country. I have no idea how it is east of the Mississippi, but I've driven thousands of miles on roads that see maybe five cars a day in either direction. Seems like it'd be a smart move to put those stretches of road to work.

    As for the hot surfaces, from the reading up on the idea I did it seems they found that if the road is at 35 degrees, it'll keep snow from building up on it. It's not like they'd leave the roads constantly at 100 or something inane, just warm enough to get the job done. Why waste more energy than you need to?

    There's a ton of reasons why Solar FREAKIN' Roadways make me uneasy, a few of my complaints being that it'd be far easier to alter the markings on the streets (they mention programming different patterns on a park's basketball court, extrapolate that to a bunch of bored teenagers wanting to play pranks on each other), light pollution, it'd make it way easier to potentially track someone's location, et cetera... But poor traction and tires melting aren't among the rest.

  • The assumption is they radiate enough heat to stay hot enough to melt snow or ice when it is <32F outside which makes you wonder how hot they will be when it is 100F outside. Unless we are talking about regulating the temperature of the roads which is an entire other complication, especially if people come to rely on such a system. If that's the case we are using half the energy these produce to store and maintain road temperature.

    There is plenty of space where there are no roads or existing infrastructure where we can install solar plants if everyone really wants solar. See the state of Nevada.

  • RequitRequit That one guy Somewhere over there, I don't know
    edited May 2014

    Quote from the site:
    """

    We tested the heaters over the winter with a DC power supply that provided them with 72-watts. This was an overkill and made the surface warm to the touch on most winter days. We still need to experiment with different voltages at different temperatures, to determine the minimum amount of power required to keep the surface above freezing. Remember, they don't have to heat up to 85 degrees like the defroster wire in the windows of your car: they only have to keep the surface warm enough to prevent snow/ice accumulation (35 degrees?).

    The heaters will use more power than the panels can make at night or on overcast days, but keep in mind that the heaters will only be on when they are needed. It can be five below zero, but unless there is precipitation or snow drifts, there's no need to activate the heaters.

    """
    And I've seen that solar array in Nevada. The one that uses giant mirrors to reflect light on a black water tower? Can't remember its name, possibly Ivanpah, but it looks pretty impressive.

  • I've driven by it as well, it does look quite cool.

    And so yes, they are talking about more gear to regulate the temps. More points of failure, short term and long term costs, less efficient cells, and it's using the energy that the panels bring in to heat roads. IMO a marketing gimmick that takes a lot away from the core value of the product.

    But hey, @requit, thanks for actually reading about this instead of watching 45 seconds of the video and summing the whole thing up like an ass (like me). I just get easily burned out on marketing blah like this video when there are far more exciting options out there.

  • _k_k P-Town, Texas

    Wikipedia expert time.

    They are looking at 16.22 W/ft^2(21.5%) if they go with standard top industrial panels. Otherwise they need to find something that is not a broad spectrum.

    "Hence much of the incident sunlight energy is wasted by solar modules, and they can give far higher efficiencies if illuminated with monochromatic light. Therefore, another design concept is to split the light into different wavelength ranges and direct the beams onto different cells tuned to those ranges.[citation needed] This has been projected to be capable of raising efficiency by 50%." I see this as something though could possibly due with the surface material.

    They could actually use extra energy during the day to pump water to a storage tank that waits until the panels can't create enough power then releases it to power a generator and supply the needed energy without using a large set of batteries. Water in a closed loop, if you have enough, is a great way to store energy with the way we are able to convert currently.

    Solar panels are cool and all if you want to lower day time consumption or power low energy systems but using light to power steam engines is a better way to go still.

  • BandrikBandrik Elkhart, IN
    edited May 2014

    While most photovoltaic cells are only 20% or so efficient, newer solar panels have gotten as far as about 40% efficiency using layers that each work with a subset of spectrum. Read about one example here. It's actually pretty neat. Theoretically they can reach as high as 50% with similar technology.

    Granted, this does not consider additional costs of these layered cells.

  • CantiCanti =/= smalltime http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9K18CGEeiI&feature=related

    While I admit to doing no research on this I will agree with @PirateNinja‌ when he says, "The cost of refactoring infrastructure and maintenance is unrealistic and so are the safety hazards of walking, driving, or biking on glass."

    Would this create a lot of jobs if it were funded? Absolutely.

    Would it be an efficient source of energy over a long period of time? Questionable.

    Would the liability risks involved with a project on such a huge scale be enough to deter anyone with the resources to fund it from doing so? You bet your ass.

    Liability is a huge reason the technology used in the creation of energy at nuclear power plants is not as up to date and efficient as it could be. This is because the cost to any company responsible for updating the infrastructure is unbelievably high should there be any kind of catastrophic failure in the process.

    While you may be thinking, "What kind of catastrophic failure could there be from installing these solar panels on roads?" Consider how many deaths there are from traffic accidents in the US alone every year. Now imagine how many of those deaths might be blamed on the installation of new and "unsafe" roads.

    It may be possible to disprove each case but for every case that goes to court there is going to be a cost to the company whether it be financially or to their reputation which will very likely result in any company avoiding the mess altogether.

    I do think this is an interesting concept which may prove useful and efficient in the future if it is modified, but the idea of replacing the entire highway infrastructure with these things seems unrealistic.

  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA

    This guy did some math, and he's estimating that the glass cost alone for manufacturing would come down to around 20 trillion dollars to do all of the roadways in the US.

    Also lots of other smart debunking, but it's a bit long.

  • drasnordrasnor Starship Operator Hawthorne, CA

    Looks like they ran over rocks on the road.

  • edcentricedcentric near Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    You have seen the EEVBlog pieces right?

    About how this is completely bogus.

    Very little power, not durable enough even for a bike path, and does not work.

    _k
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