Green technology is at interesting stage. On one hand, climate change, environmental engineers, and science communicators have convinced the public that investing in clean technologies is a good idea. On the other hand, green technology is still at a developmental stage, and no one’s quite sure which path to take. Entrepreneurs and engineers with an eye toward sustainability have the freedom to experiment with all kinds of innovations.
Solar roads are one of these odd, perhaps promising, technologies. One Idaho couple has spent the last few years developing and promoting this nifty idea. The couple and their company, Solar Roadways, have some big aspirations. Their goal: a sun-powered road system which fills the quadruple function of infrastructure,electrical grid, power generator, and weather maintenance.
Solar Roadways are primarily roads. These glass-covered hexagons from the future should, ideally, work like normal streets. Developers are currently working out the kinks related to forceful crashes and other hard-hitting highway impacts. Their results have been mixed, raising the concerns you’d expect when driving heavy automobiles on glass panels.
More promisingly, this technology could work as sidewalk paving. Solar sidewalks would not pose the same risks as their roadway counterparts. These flashy walkways could also serve as prototypes for the long term roadway dreams. And they could still provide grid systems and power generation.
Solar Roadways also want their product to function as electrical grids. Keeping the grid system beneath our feet and out of the sky would serve a clear cosmetic function. No more powerlines, just glowing roads. At the very least, they could power the traffic signals.
The sheer size of many cities’ infrastructure means that this system could handle a large amount of panels. Numbers aren’t quite available yet, but it seems reasonable to think a full city’s worth of panels could drastically cut power costs and save citizens’ money. No word yet on the effects of a traffic jam, but battery technology is expected to bolt forward over the next few years, making all types of solar energy more efficient and usable.
This tech would not only transport energy, it would create it. As mentioned, a road system full of panels could generate a significant amount of power. Solar cells get better all the time. And if it were built directly into the grid, transportation costs would plummet, and technicians could stick to one simple system. A city basing its power system on solar panels would get more and more efficient every year, making solar roads something to keep an eye one.
Solar Roadways have a few other ideas for things their roads could be used for. They’ve proposed an LED system which could signal traffic and pedestrians, sending them up-to-the-minutes instructions, news, and ads. Additionally, the panels generate heat. This heat would make clearing snow and ice a breeze during brutal, northern winters.
And who knows what else they could do? Maybe one day the sidewalks will be paved with video games, keeping kids entertained and parents happy as they get fresh air right alongside their digital fantasy worlds.