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Solar Roadways want to replace ordinary asphalt with intelligent, energy-generating panels

By Shawn Knight
May 9, 2014
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  1. The question I have is how long do they last? On the interstate with plenty of semi trucks and traffic would these smart roads last for 10+ years before needing to be replaced? If they became cheap enough it seems like road repairs would be easy as you could just take out the old panels and plug and play the new ones
  2. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 12,539   +301

    May not pay for itself. I question it's durability.
  3. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 1,913   +362

    also a valid point.
  4. Sunny87

    Sunny87 TS Enthusiast Posts: 120   +11

    Has anyone thought about the possibility of epileptic seizures brought on by the road markings LED's refresh rate? Or will the LED's cause screen burn to each panel as being stuck on the same image does to LED screen technology? How do the road markings look in the day time?

    I'm all up for a road that can remove snow and generate electricity I thought about it myself over 10 years ago but screens in the roads bring about a whole plethora of other what ifs it might not be the solid investment it makes out to be on paper, other issues are breaking distance differences in tires and brakes designed to drive on rougher tarmac and not tempered glass with less friction, also as mentioned longevity of each panel as it gets run over daily by not just a little silly electric car but a few tonnes worth of lorry.

    Also lets not forget the glaringly obvious fact that this will save money by doing something that tarmac doesn't do, lose people their jobs.

    I'm all up for progress but when the progress takes money from the people trying to put dinner on the table for their kids then it has to be questioned and vigorously scrutinised before being allowed out in the world as it has to be truly faultless and beneficial to everyone, I can't stand it when we invest billions into something for it only to make barely 1% of a difference but over 99% of a difference to the likes of me and you trying to earn honestly and pay our way in life.
  5. Railman

    Railman TS Enthusiast Posts: 614   +81

    People who at high risk of epileptic seizures are probably not permitted to drive.
    I wondered about the braking distance. It was a good point about the lorries as they do more damage to roads than other vehicles.
    Actually it could create more jobs not less.
    Can you explain why this would stop you putting dinner on the table? If you are in the tarmacking industry it is unlikely to put you out of a job as I am sure the majority of roads will remain tarmacked.
  6. Sunny87

    Sunny87 TS Enthusiast Posts: 120   +11

    It's my thinking that less products would be being sold in the long run therefore the use of tarmac paint becomes less purchased reducing sales of the required paints means reducing staff in different companies ect, sales of tarmac would drastically fall I'm not saying thats a bad thing but are they going to retrain all the road resurfacing lads and lasses out there to be computer technicians as well so they can keep their jobs? No longer any need for the guys installing road lighting and road lighting maintenance ect.

    More costs are added when computers get added into the equation as well I know this my expenditure in IT is obscene, more costs to the taxpayer I can only begin to imagine the server rooms that are going to be needed for this, more carbon footprint added per year after the UK's already being fined for not meeting standards, granted more jobs but again for the IT guys, the worlds going to be run by server engineers haha, in my mind I like this but I think the UK needs to focus on producing it's own green energy before we begin focusing on tech like this our over reliance on others for fuel and power is worrying to say the least.

    If the UK produced it's own green energy then this would fall into place nicely, get the backbone right first I say then let the domino effect take place and everything falls into place nicely.

    I'll be honest I'm not up on epilepsy but I have a friend who is epileptic but not light sensitive he's is brought on randomly but not by refresh rate, he is allowed to drive, all be it he's insurance is higher.

    As I say I'm not against progress of this type I'm all for it, but progress needs to work with us not against us, things should be made simple not simpler.
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TechSpot Paladin Posts: 5,980   +1,488

    Take a step back and think about how long it takes to resurface just one roadway. I don't see installation of these panels going any quicker, because the road still needs to be prepared underneath the panels.

    I'm pretty sure making these panels would more than compensate for the loss of creating paint and asphalt. And there will be more than enough time to educate ourselves in the workload shift. Changing the roadways will not be an overnight project. I personally doubt if adopted, anyone outside the major cities will see this tech during the first twenty years. That leaves the greater portion of roadway unchanged for business as usual, leaching tax payers pockets. If it takes the paint and asphalt business more than twenty years to adapt, it will be because they are trying not to adapt. Just like I'm trying not to adapt to Win8.
  8. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 1,669   +59

    You think the electric company lobbyist will allow this dream on. They incurred a fee here in Arizona to any houses with solar panels. They admittedly said it was to discourage people from using solar panels. They do not want us saving money or achieving sustainable energy.
  9. Forg0t2

    Forg0t2 TS Enthusiast Posts: 108   +12

    Price? How about the infrastructural changes that need to be made. Asphalt roads are made pretty easy. This would require you to build tunnels for distribution of cables and intelligent systems. Not all soil is good for digging. People need to be re-educated in order to build the roads since one mistake here doesn't just create a light bump. So much things that need to change from the current system that it would probably scare off investors more than it would draw investors...
  10. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Rookie

    The cost problem for replacing the existing roads is easy to tackle: simple don't replace them...
    We should have multi track roadways where only light vehicles should use roads made with this tech, perhaps even putting those tracks by the sides of the heavy vehicles tracks as guidance.

    And btw, the same technology can be adapted to be used in smart sidewalks, and the same cost solution too: only use smart sidewalks when you need to build or rebuild a sidewalk, so you don't need to rebuild them all in one shot.
  11. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Rookie

    Lemme correct myself... Don't don't replace the usable roads now... Replace the one's needing repair.
     
  12. MonsterZero

    MonsterZero TS Rookie Posts: 55   +9

    This is because asphalt is made from the discards of petroleum, although it does occur naturally in nature (algae deposits) they have to get rid of it somewhere, why not repave the whole damn street every 5 years or so so that they can get rid of this crap.

    Still I think the solar roadway is a good idea, probably just not cost effective, were not even sure how long these cells would last. I would like to point out that they can melt ice, that blows my mind right there. So these could at least be used for bridges and ramps.
  13. ThinkMn

    ThinkMn TS Rookie

    I think if the price is low enough, the home owners would be ideal. It keeps the road clear, so it could keep a driveway clear of snow which is a big seller in itself. The messaging capability wouldn't be needed. And there is a huge number of people with driveways that are empty all day long.
  14. MrBungle

    MrBungle TS Booster Posts: 149   +64

    What is the cost difference between this and a run of the mill asphalt or concrete road? how long does it take to recoup that cost by selling electricity? are the panels more or less durable than the roads we use now? Its a pretty neat idea though, roads comprise a massive surface area so there is a lot of potential there.
  15. Joshua C

    Joshua C TS Rookie

    I don't think that's what they meant. The energy they produce over time from the sun is more than the energy costs of manufacturing. This is energy that would otherwise be lost.
  16. Railman

    Railman TS Enthusiast Posts: 614   +81

    That is the opposite to what happens in the UK. The electricity companies have to pay for any electricity passed to the grid from solar panels. The idea being that householders are encouraged to install solar panels.
  17. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 4,658   +82

    I use to talk to those that pave the streets in New England and was told that asphalt could be last for 12 years but states don't want to spend the money on that type of long life asphalt. So you get cheaper grade. Where I live they use brown asphalt which just got redone to the prior black type. This project had taken them 3 weeks to complete. I still think the job could have been better. They had to comeback out a few times to roll over it.

    No excuse to have the newly paved road lumpy.
  18. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 1,669   +59

    They do have to pay for electricity given back to them, but they made a yearly fee for any customer with solar power to offset the cost effectiveness. They plainly admitted why the fee was only given to solar panel customers. They wanted to discourage people from using solar panels to increase their profits. I think its a monthly fee.
  19. Railman

    Railman TS Enthusiast Posts: 614   +81

    Do the electricity companies in Arizona have a monopoly? We have a very unusual arrangement that you can opt to change your supplier.
  20. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 1,669   +59

    I am not to sure about that. I think you have 1-3 options depending on where you live.
  21. Resp1ra

    Resp1ra TS Rookie

    So whats to stop someone from installing these on private roads to power their own homes? Minus the cost obviously.
  22. mgwerner

    mgwerner TS Rookie

    You cannot simply assume this to be true. The manufacturing process for a complex and durable device such as this will likely be enormous. As with wind turbines placed where they do not get enough wind, there are places where these kinds of pavement will NOT get enough sun to offset the manufacturing costs. Particularly in the NW and NE, where they are touted to be the solution to icy roads. Roads ice over when it snows, and it snows when it is cloudy. Where will the energy come from to heat the roadway in February when it is only light for 6 or so hours and is grey and overcast much of the time?
  23. mgwerner

    mgwerner TS Rookie

    Nothing, the pilot is the inventors' driveway. I'd do it myself, as I live in the sunny South, if the cost were low enough to recoup the purchase and installation.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  24. Railman

    Railman TS Enthusiast Posts: 614   +81

    It would only make sense if the drive is not obstructed by your car! Next door to me they have quite a few cars and their drive is frequently full of cars. Such a system would be a colossal waste of money for them. Come to think about it the M25 would not benefit from this kind of scheme as that road frequently resembles a car park!
  25. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 12,539   +301

    Notwithstanding the earlier point about how much energy it costs to produce... you still have to factor in durability. The asphalt where I live (mid Missouri) gets absolutely abused by the heat and sun in the summer and freeze thaw in the winter. In the winter huge potholes develop almost out of nowhere (from previously small imperfections) and in the summer big ruts can occur when heavy trucks drive over. So these panels would have to tolerate enormous loads from large trucks as well as withstand freeze thaw (meaning they can't have any cracks/imperfections, especially problematic at joints). If the surface is made out of some polymer it would need to be extremely UV resistant, I would guess somewhere on the order of 50 years for payback (solar is not very efficient, yet). Plastics are pretty poor for long term UV resistance. Glass has a durability concern, especially with impacts. There are just so many problems I can't come even close to believing this is feasible with today's technologies.
    mgwerner and cliffordcooley like this.


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