Infrastructurist on Solar Roadway: FAIL
When Jeremy first wrote about the Solar Roadway two years ago, the comments were pretty uniformly damning, running the gamut from "This is the kind of idea I'd expect to see a 12 year old write a poster on at a science fair." to "ok, finally caught my breath, I was laughing so hard after reading this. "
When it came around again like a bad penny (or should we say bad $100K) this summer and was seen on Inhabitat and Grist and just about every other green website we lay low. The Infrastructurist did no such thing, going so far as to call the idea "totally batshit crazy"
You had to admire Scott Brusaw's vision of a $35 TRILLION rebuild of roads made out of solar panels; the guy thinks big. But the Infrastructurist nails it:
Solar Roadways is engineering PV panels to withstand 40-ton vehicles going 80 miles an hour over them day and night for decades. How much more does it cost to make solar panels-already a bit pricey-totally indestructible? We're guessing a lot. And this all so we can avoid putting them someplace sensible, like on all those empty rooftops in America's sunnier climes, where cars and trucks don't drive and where there also happens to be an existing electrical grid for them to hook into.
We do expect a few angry comments about how we're misguided and don't really get the idea. But then again, the company has gotten lots of friendly press pick-up and a big pile of tax dollars for a totally batshit crazy plan, so we figure they've earned a bit of ribbing .
Scott Brusaw had the courtesy to respond to our post two years ago, and took the time to address many of the complaints of commenters, which are pretty much the same as the Infrastructurist's. He defends it as " an intricate system for revamping our entire transportation infrastructure, not a random idea to slap some solar cells on the roadways." He continued:
The Idaho Transportation Department was excited about the idea of building roads out of new materials, primarily because asphalt is petroleum based, and the cost of asphalt is projected to skyrocket over the next five years. That $16 per square foot will begin to sound attractive. The experts, along with OPEC, estimate that the world will run out of oil in 50 years. Since OPEC is known to lie about their oil reserves (they're only allowed to sell a certain percentage of their reserves each year and their reserve numbers haven't changed in ten years), my guess is that we've got about 20 years of oil left. What will we make our roads out of then?
Some posters protest that the Solar Roadways will cost too much. The money is going to be spent anyway- repaving and maintaining our current roads, parking lots, and driveways. Why not get something out of it (clean, renewable energy among other things) and solve the climate crisis in the process?
He also addressed the issue of the strength of the road:
Being an engineer, I knew early on that the surface would have to withstand the static and dynamic forces of a fully loaded semi-truck locking up its brakes at 80mph - no easy task. I prepared a list of specifications for this glass surface, including (but not limited to) the following: it must be fire-proof, transparent in one direction, provide traction at least equivalent to current asphalt roads, be able to withstand sand, salt, magnesium chloride, and every other material known to be used for snow/ice removal, be anti-glare, etc. I sent these specifications to the three top materials science research laboratories in the US: Penn State University Research Institute, MIT, and the University of Dayton Research Institute respectively.
This past February, I visited the University of Dayton Research Institute. They assured me that the material for the top surface of our Solar Roadway Panel could be created - it would just take time and money.
And the issue of tying into the power grid:
In response to the comment that "It's a solar panel people, it doesn't matter where you put it". Actually it does. The largest obstacle to solar power today is the logistical nightmare of getting the power into the power grid. The Solar Roadways solve that problem by BECOMING the power grid with the capacity to send power wherever it's needed.
It may be that the whole idea is batshit crazy. It still seems to me that this is the last place in the entire country that you would want to embed your solar panels. (Well, one commenter suggested that maybe putting them in your front garden and planting grass on top of them might be worse) But if past is prologue, the Infrastructurist will be getting a long letter addressing every one of his complaints.
Lots more in our original post on Solar Roadways