What are your thoughts on solar roadways? I know that it is something that has been talked about in certain circles for years, but could solar roadways become a thing? Is this something that may take place in the not so distant future? Or possibly even be quickly integrated as a mainstay of our current road system?
Well, technically, we do have the know-how and the ability to create these roadways. However, the idea of actually having them as a part of our road system? I’m not so sure about that.
There are several specific reasons why solar roadways are just not in the cards for our current road system. What are these reasons, you ask?
Well let’s break it down for you here:
- Legislation and Red Tape
- Time Investment
What is a Solar Roadway?
Before getting into the specifics, let’s answer the question that many people have. What is a solar roadway?
Solar Roadways are a concept created by Solar Roadways Incorporated, which is an American company ran out of Idaho. The purpose of the roadways and the goal of the company is to develop solar-powered road panels. These panels could be interlocked to create a “smart highway.”
The goal would be to have the roadways themselves become a power source. Supporters of this idea claim that the roadways would produce enough energy to pay for themselves over time, therefore cutting down on the cost of highway maintenance.
The Expense of Solar Roadways
There is no denying that the cost of solar roadways would be expensive. Some speculations have put the cost of this project to be over 50 trillion dollars.
The country has massive lists of infrastructure needs that are waiting to be done. I would struggle to think that taxpayers would be happy to pay so much money on this project before those were to be accomplished.
Many critics claim that the expense of building such a roadway is often more than what it would have cost to provide that much electricity. For example, the Netherlands built a solar-powered bike path in 2014 that, throughout one year, generated 3,000 kilowatts of power, yet the $3.7 million to build the path could have paid for 520,000 kilowatts of power.
While the idea that this path is creating power is impressive, and eventually it will create 520,000 kilowatts of power, how much it will cost in repair and upkeep in the meantime is a valid concern.
Legislation and Red Tape Needed
With the news media so easily accessible these days, most of us know at least a little bit about how difficult it is to get things passed through the appropriate government channels. It takes hundreds of people working together and countless hours, months, years to move things through legislation.
For anything to pass through legislation, it almost inevitably has to go through a significant amount of changes to get to that point. A decision on a project like solar roadways would take a substantial amount of time to accomplish.
Even if you get through the massive amount of work and time it takes to pass any form of legislation, you have to consider the time investment of such an enormous project. An 18 mile stretch of highway near me was rebuilt recently, and it took five years to complete.
Imagine the time that would be required to build an entirely different type of road system. One that takes many more solar panels than the typical ones people think of that heat water and homes.
To have solar roadways become a regular part of our lives would take at minimum, decades to complete.
The Impracticality of Solar Roadways
The idea of solar roadways is great! Who doesn’t love the idea of a roadway paying for itself? However, it’s not all about that. Critics of solar roadways have been very vocal about how impractical they are.
Here are just some of the stated reasons why solar roadways might be impractical:
- Solar panels decrease in performance once they get grimy and dirty. With cars driving over them 24/7, they are unlikely to stay clean for long. Supporters say that to overcome this; we can use self-cleaning glass on the panels that have been chemically altered to deter dirt and other materials from sticking. These chemicals, however, could create slippery, dangerous driving conditions. Imagine them with snow and ice.
- Availability of materials. Replacing a road system would require a tremendous amount of materials, some of which are not yet widely available.
- The durability of materials. This concept has yet proven to be durable enough to make up for the cost of it. Supporters say that you can simply replace each panel when it gets broken, but with traffic passes over it 24/7, how often will they need to be replaced?
Where We Might Start Seeing Solar Roadways
Many people think that the place for solar roadways to start making an appearance is in parking lots, bike paths, and even in some small towns. Seeing the success of solar roadways on a small scale might be just what is needed to convince others to help push this idea forward.
What do you think about solar roadways? Would you like to see them become a reality?