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Solar Roadways Get DoT Funding

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the technology-that-wouldn't-work-in-michigan dept.

Power 484

mikee805 writes "Solar Roadways, a project to replace over 25,000 square miles of road in the US with solar panels you can drive on, just received $100,000 in funding from the Department of Transportation for the first 12ft-by-12ft prototype panel. Each panel consists of three layers: a base layer with data and power cables running through it, an electronics layer with an array of LEDs, solar collectors and capacitors, and finally the glass road surface. With data and power cables, the solar roadway has the potential to replace some of our aging infrastructure. With only 15% efficiency, 25,000 square miles of solar roadways could produce three times what the US uses annually in energy. The building costs are estimated to be competitive with traditional roads, and the solar roads would heat themselves in the winter to keep snow from accumulating."

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Oh, get real. (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238803)

Solid concrete and asphalt get ripped apart in short order by the combination of weather and heavy vehicle traffic, and they propose to use solar panels to drive on? I'd say it's a bold engineering project, but it's gone beyond "bold", past "insane", past "so crazy it might work", and right into "let's see if we can get dumb ideas paid for if we call 'em green".

Re:Oh, get real. (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238865)

Well, if nobody does the work then it'll definitely never happen. I'm sure if somebody had told Newton about this wonderful thing called Nuclear energy he'd've laughed in their face. Likewise, I can't imagine anybody of that era seriously believing that we'd have the internet.

The belief that it's not possible is just plain silly, it's not possible with today's technology, but there isn't really any inherent reason why it couldn't be done at some future date. Provided the funding and the future date is far enough off. On paper it's not that difficult of a problem, just put some super tough clear material over the top of the cells and you've dealt with the wear and tear, and solar cells tend to warm up as they receive light so the amount of damage from winter is less. And winter is when most of the damage is done by the weather, the cooling and heating isn't good for it.

In practice it's going to be difficult to find suitable materials, but you're definitely not going to succeed if you don't try, and the roads tend to be pretty exposed anyways. It's also great for small communities located along the interstates. And presumably it would pay for a lot of the cost of upkeep on our roads.

Re:Oh, get real. (5, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238885)

just put some super tough clear material over the top of the cells and you've dealt with the wear and tear

Another laugh out loud moment. This thread delivers.

I imagine you going to the materials engineer on retainer for your states DoT. "I noticed we're spending $30 million a year resurfacing roads. Send a little of that my way and we can solve that problem. My idea is to put a super tough material over the top and we'll have dealt with the wear and tear."

Re:Oh, get real. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239043)

It's a perfectly feasible idea. Just put a layer of scrith over the top and presto! you're all set.

Re:Oh, get real. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29238873)

You're not looking deep enough. Out of this sort of funding, the main project (roadways) is most likely a throwaway. However, there is a good chance the people that develop this type of system might stumble upon a new material, process, etc. So it might not be a waste of money. I'm an optimist though.

Re:Oh, get real. (4, Informative)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238881)

Concrete is solid like a rock. The reason concrete cracks in the weather is because it expands and contracts because of the temperature and water content. If the solar panels were a lot more pliable, just as strong, waterproof, and had something like the self healing plastic abilities, I think it can work just fine.

Re:Oh, get real. (5, Interesting)

Jedi1USA (145452) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239025)

One other problem with concrete is that at the "seams" (not to mention the cracks) between panels water can get through to the ground underneath. This can lead to localized soil expansion/contraction which causes stress on the concrete and accelerates the deterioration. If a lot of water gets through the ground can be unstable enough to allow the panels to "rock" then they don't line up evenly any more. I would think these large glass panels could be susceptible to the same problem.

I think all your missing is (4, Interesting)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239113)

able to leap tall buildings and being bullet proof...

I am not overly worried about its resilience, I am more worried about how the surface drains water and traction on when wet. Being an avid motorcyclist I dread new roadway compounds because half the time they forget that two wheelers exist. Rubber directional signs applied to road surfaces are already not friendly, I don't need more.

Re:Oh, get real. (3, Interesting)

rtaylor (70602) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238945)

For heavily used surfaces it probably wouldn't work.

Most shoulders (in Canada) are paved and very lightly used. Most of the streets in neighbourhoods are also very lightly used (hundreds of slow moving cars per day and not tens of thousands).

I imagine there are locations where this could be used as a surface that is durable enough. The big question mark is production cost (more expensive than current surfacing for a 50 year period) and does it generate enough to make it worth wiring it into the grid.

The test seems very cheap. Surfacing tests of different asphalt mixtures on the order of millions are regularly done.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

HuckleCom (690630) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238965)

$100k is chump change. Maybe in california, but in Minnesota weather the first plow will ensure a blackout.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

HuckleCom (690630) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238971)

I take that back... Hasn't anyone learned anything from the Mars Rover? They have to be super careful to keep them flipin panels clean on the rover... something tells me nasa uses better solar panels then what would be on the roads ...

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

Bught_42 (1012499) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239035)

Most parts of the earth don't have massive dust storms and when it's not on mars we can clean them. The rovers were built for 90 day missions and they didn't feel a mechanism to clean the panels was important enough.

Re:Oh, get real. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239009)

RTFA - they do not need snow plows, they heat themselves.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239083)

RTFA - they do not need snow plows, they heat themselves.

Oh, lovely. So instead of just snow, you'll be driving on a layer of slush/ice on top of a little water. That's about as bad as it can get, except for maybe a flash flood.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239219)

> So instead of just snow, you'll be driving on a layer of slush/ice on top of a little water.

You forgot that everything is on top of the super-tough (snicker) glass layer, just to make it more fun. I don't know how thick the snow in Minnesota gets, but I remember hearing of 6 ft of snow in Upstate New York (at RPI, specifically, when visiting colleges before applying). I think that melting the snow will be less than effective.

Re:Oh, get real. (2, Informative)

Socguy (933973) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239033)

Perhaps, but according to the article, the panels will heat themselves thereby eliminating the need for snowplows.

Re:Oh, get real. (3, Informative)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239257)

This should be applied first in the southern states, because a solar panel in a southern state will yield more energy than a solar panel in a northern state (like Minnesota), as opposed to fossil fuels, which yield the same amount of energy regardless of where you burn them.

People do seem to be focusing too much on the problems and not enough on the benefits, which is a healthy point of view when you're talking about scientific developments, but most problems I see people pointing out here are easily solved or circumvented. Freeze/thaw cycles are one, the solution being: build them in the warmer states.

Timothy Brownawell wrote about another problem:

Oh, lovely. So instead of just snow, you'll be driving on a layer of slush/ice on top of a little water. That's about as bad as it can get, except for maybe a flash flood.

Again, this problem is relatively easily solved by making sure the roads are properly drained. Slightly slope the roads to the side so the rain or molten snow drains off into a sewer, and you don't have the slush anymore. This snow problem is also severely reduced by building these roads in California and Florida instead of Alaska and New Hampshire.

copponex wrote:

Yes, if the people who designed this system are absolute morons, they may have forgotten that trucks exist and are heavy.

Trucks do exist and are heavy, and do wear down roads and highways quickly. The thing is, a lot of roads aren't heavily used highways, they're calm streets in suburbs.

As rtaylor wrote:

Most of the streets in neighbourhoods are also very lightly used (hundreds of slow moving cars per day and not tens of thousands).

These quiet streets get just as much sunlight per square meter (substitute by your favorite unit of area) as the big highway a few miles further. No need to change the entire transportation network into a power plant at once, you can keep your heavy trucks on asphalt highways, and keep the solar panels in the suburbs where people drive slowly, and heavy trucks are barely ever seen at all.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

Bught_42 (1012499) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238985)

In Southern California we don't get much in the way of any real weather other than sun. In more rural areas where the roads aren't used that much, and if it's actually comparable to traditional road materials, it should stand up for several years. I'd say the real value is for rarely used roads in sunny locations; or where getting roads, data and electricity all in one is rather appealing.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239201)

Problem is, is that in SoCal, all the roads are covered in cars. If there's cars on top of the panels, they can't collect sunlight. Woudln't it make much more sense to just coat death valley with solar panels, rather that putting solar panels on the roads where they will be covered up half the time?

Re:Oh, get real. (2, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239243)

Woudln't it make much more sense to just coat death valley with solar panels, rather that putting solar panels on the roads where they will be covered up half the time?

Or line Death Valley with aluminum panels and turn it into a enormous solar-thermal system. Any James Bond villains around, we can get them to finance it by claiming it's a death ray.

Re:Oh, get real. (5, Insightful)

brusk (135896) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239269)

What about the middle of the night, when there's much less traffic?

A dumb argument (4, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239049)

There are multiple solutions to the problems you suggest, but I don't even have to mention them, because others have already.

The real problem is that you fail to understand that solutions can be found if you aren't too lazy to look for them. Yes, if the people who designed this system are absolute morons, they may have forgotten that trucks exist and are heavy. The difference between that group and you is that they are actually doing something instead of arriving at a problem, scratching their pits like their primate ancestors, and going back to throwing shit at a tree, or speculating on the NFL draft, or arguing with some lonely basement dwellers on a Friday night on the internet.

Am I doing anything particularly important or positive? No.

Am I therefore going to endlessly criticize those who are trying to solve it for me? Of course not. I'm glad they're working on the problem, and will be happy to benefit from it if they're successful. I'll even gladly give more money to projects like this out of my tax dollars, instead of wasting them to build F-22s at 3,000x the cost.

Fortunately for their team, real scientists and engineers will constructively examine his project and be very critical of it. Since they aren't like you, and will continue to look for a solution instead of giving up at each impasse, they will have a better product in the end. Even if the project totally fails, they may provide useful information to others who are also trying to come up with solutions to similar problems. This is the beauty of the scientific method. Please take your ape brain elsewhere.

Re:A dumb argument (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239093)

I wasted too many mod points on the Literacy Revolution thread dammit!

Re:A dumb argument (5, Insightful)

jtorkbob (885054) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239195)

There is this thing, though, called snake oil. Politicians love it, these days even more so when it's 'Green Snake Oil'.

Re:A dumb argument (3, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239221)

Maybe we should call it "Snake Ethanol".

-jcr

Re:A dumb argument (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239205)

I'll even gladly give more money to projects like this out of my tax dollars, instead of wasting them to build F-22s at 3,000x the cost.

How about if you kept those dollars yourself, and spent them or saved them as you saw fit for your own purposes, instead of the government making those choices for you? Buy solar panels if you like.

-jcr

Re:Oh, get real. (2, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239085)

Oh, just shut up. You you have no good reason to think this won't work, this is just your biased gut reaction to anything associated with efficiency or alternative energy savings, and nothing more. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

The two tracks that take 90% of the wear in each lane cover relatively little of the road, and this doesn't have to be cost competitive with non-energy producing roads because energy is valuable! Roads cover vast swaths of space, which is mostly wasted. So I really hope this works out.

Re:Oh, get real. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239153)

How about using this in a parking lot? Much less wear and tear.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239273)

I agree with that but must also add that none of that would even get THAT far in that these roads are outdoors. Anything outdoors gets dirt and dust and other assorted dirtiness covering it. Blacktop stays black for what, 2 months? Then it's all general outdoor residue. So I think they'd be dirty enough to absorb basically no light before trucks come in and misalign them, shatter them, and vibrate them apart.

Re:Oh, get real. (1)

PoDiddy (1627257) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239275)

Laugh at yourselves cuz you voted these guys in!

whatcouldpossiblygowrong (4, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238805)

Ok, that's probably overstating it.

This probably is doable, but I think we are years if not decades away from it being cost-effective.

Besides, if you've seen the wear and tear, potholes, and cracks in roads around here you'd know things are rarely as easy in the field as they are in the lab.

Re:whatcouldpossiblygowrong (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239133)

Of course it's cost effective. The first 12'x12' panel, 144 sq feet, cost US$100,000. So, 25,000 sq miles x 5280 feet x 5280 feet x ($100,000/144 sqft) = . . . $484,000,000,000,000. Is that. . . 484 trillion dollars? Where's Dr. Evil's laugh when we need it?

yeah right (2, Insightful)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238807)

With only 15% efficiency, 25,000 square miles of solar roadways could produce three times what the US uses annually in energy

25 thousand square miles of solar panels? I laughed out loud at that being considered a plausible solution to the energy crisis. You could power the entire world with the amount of money that would cost, using cheaper power like hydroelectric/wind. Also it would cost a fortune to maintain. Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on land somewhere, you don't have to drive all over them.

Re:yeah right (2, Interesting)

Mithyx (1532655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238861)

...Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on land somewhere, you don't have to drive all over them.

This was my first thought too. Making the solar panels into roads (or vice versa) is compounding the problem. Just put the 25,000 mi^2 of solar panels in the middle of the desert and call it even. Adding a layer of glass or some sort of protective surface is going to lessen the efficiency and raise the cost of production and maintenance. I'm all about green energy, but there are better places we could be spending our money and energy.

Re:yeah right (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238961)

I agree. This is not a solution, and why choose this over viable solutions available right now? Even if you wanted to use the roads for solar energy why not do something like use them as they are, or run pipes under/in the asphault and pump water through them for water heating in the summer (which would cool the roads as well) -and you could pump water through them in the winter to de-ice the roads. Of course that also creates problems when pipes crack and it would increase the cost of road construction, but still it seems waaaay more viable than this. In fact if I sat down for an afternoon I'll bet I could come up with 100 more viable ideas than this.

Re:yeah right (4, Informative)

bertok (226922) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239255)

...Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on land somewhere, you don't have to drive all over them.

This was my first thought too. Making the solar panels into roads (or vice versa) is compounding the problem. Just put the 25,000 mi^2 of solar panels in the middle of the desert and call it even. Adding a layer of glass or some sort of protective surface is going to lessen the efficiency and raise the cost of production and maintenance. I'm all about green energy, but there are better places we could be spending our money and energy.

Back at uni, I did a mini-course on the the Solar Car challenge [wsc.org.au] , because my University [unsw.edu.au] made some of the solar panels for the top cars, and we also had a car that entered and did fairly well (for a low budget). One of the things we learned was that solar cells lose efficiency very quickly from a variety of things. The two that most researchers ignored in the lab but mattered in the field was heat and dirt. The cars in the race are washed with cold water thoroughly at every opportunity because colder, cleaner cells are substantially more efficient. Think CPU overclocking - lower temperatures improves things a lot.

Now lets compare this situation to a typical road which is:
a) Blistering hot most days.
b) Really, truly, thoroughly dirty.

Sounds like the perfect place to put an expensive solar cell panel!

Another thing we learned is that a single "test" panel in a lab operates very differently to a bunch of real panels in the field. What a lot of naive researchers miss is that the amount of sunlight over the entire collecting surface in the real-world is not constant. For a one-square-foot panel, it is, but for any significant surface (the size of a car, road, whatever), it won't be. The surface will be curved or partially shadowed. This matters a lot because if you just connect a bunch of cells together, they perform roughly the same as the worst of the lot. If there's a few cells under a shadow, that's drags down the efficiency of the panels receiving sunlight. To efficiently extract energy from a bunch of panels receiving differing amounts of light takes a bunch of expensive power management electronics that can combine the different cell outputs in the right way.

In practice, cells are so expensive that the best place to put them is on huge, flat, orientable panels out in the desert where there's no clouds, no rainfall to cake dirt onto the panels, and they can be oriented to face the sun at all time, like this array in southern California [wired.com] .

Re:yeah right (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238877)

Because we need to have roads, so that area is already set aside, plus apart from the roads inside of cities a lot of stretches of roads are less used, but might still be conveniently located for smaller communities. But, you're absolutely correct when you suggest that converting the whole system to solar panels is stupid. There are cheaper places to put them and cheaper means of getting electricity.

Re:yeah right (5, Insightful)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238909)

Also why do they have to make roads out of them.. where did that come from? Just put them out on land somewhere, you don't have to drive all over them.

Yes let's go tear up what's left of arable land and natural habitat for our never ending thirst for energy. People will point to the desert as if it's some vast lifeless tract of land. Which is simply not the case.

Re:yeah right (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238989)

You apparently [wikipedia.org] have a very loose definition of arable.

Re:yeah right (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238935)

yeah i did some math...he mentions in the video he thinks he can get the cost "down" to $43/sq ft. 1 square mile ~= 5200x5200 x 43 ~= $1.1 billion x 25000 = $27 trillion.

fire up the printing presses.

Re:yeah right (3, Informative)

madcat2c (1292296) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239067)

Your assuming mile wide lanes. Lets assume 2 lane roads. Normal 12' wide lanes means 48' of width.
5280'long X 48' wide = 253,440sq feet per mile
253,440sqfeet per mile X $43 = $10,897,920 per mile
$10,897,920 per mile X 25,000 miles =
$272,448,000,000.

So $273 billion or so for nationwide energy independence would be pretty cheap if you ask me.
I cant keep my kids eyeglasses from getting scratched up every six months, so im not sure how they will keep the clear covering scratch free...if they cant then that efficiency goes way down I bet.

Re:yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239211)

yeah i did some math...he mentions in the video he thinks he can get the cost "down" to $43/sq ft. 1 square mile ~= 5200x5200 x 43 ~= $1.1 billion x 25000 = $27 trillion.

fire up the printing presses.

We could print MORE money!

Re:yeah right (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239061)

But they can conveniently power our vast array of roadway embedded GPGPU supercomputers.

Re:yeah right (2, Interesting)

bcwright (871193) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239075)

25,000 square miles is a lot of land to give up, even if it's desert.

A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that 25,000 square miles is about 9.4 million lane-miles, or about 2.4 million miles of 4-lane roadway. This sounds suspiciously close to our total inventory of highway miles of all sorts, everything from Interstates down to country roads, so I suspect that that's where that number came from. I would certainly have a great deal of concern about the issue of wear-and-tear on major highways built using this technology; dealing with that would have to cost more than making normal solar panels, and all they have to do is just sit out there in the sun.

It would seem that there are lots of other places you could put that many solar panels that wouldn't have quite as much of the wear-and-tear issues: roofs of all sorts, for example. Since you don't really need 25,000 square miles of solar panels given current solar panel efficiency and current power needs, that would appear to be a better place to site them first. If it isn't cost-effective there, it won't be cost-effective anywhere.

Re:yeah right (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239215)

http://www.covalentsolar.com/ [covalentsolar.com]

Ignoring the solar cell aspect, are you forgetting about the whole data and power layer?

That alone would make it worth it IMO.

The Roads are owned by who? So who would own the data pipes?

We would call that getting two birds stoned at once in Canada.

Unsafe? (5, Interesting)

digitalmonkey2k1 (521301) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238813)

I'm sure they did fairly decent testing with 4 wheel vehicles, but my motorcycle lacks the inherent stability that a car has. How bad would a surface like this be when it gets wet?

Re:Unsafe? (1)

virmaior (1186271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239055)

if you read the website, you would realize the only thing they tested is the HTML.

Re:Unsafe? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239169)

If it's rough enough for traction, it'll get coated with crud and work less well.

Dang Good Idea (0, Troll)

Ferretman (224859) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238831)

This is a pretty good idea, if it can be pulled off. Leaving aside the nonsense about climate change it's a Good Thing Anyway, though I'm a bit worried about overall durability compared to a layer of asphalt. I wish them the best!

The claims in summary = article + meshed/shortened (5, Informative)

virmaior (1186271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238841)

at least one of the claims here seems a little off: http://www.solarroadways.com/The%20Numbers.htm [solarroadways.com]

in particular, this sentence: "This means that if each individual panel can be made for no more than $6912.00, then the Solar Roadwayâ can be built for the same cost as current asphalt roads." It seems to assume that an outlay of 3x the money for a road that lasts 3x as long is the same cost as 1x & 1x respectively. While this is true for someone with infinite readily available money, the reality is that most places don't have enough money for that.

also "The Solar Roadwayâ will, therefore, eliminate half of the greenhouse gases currently being produced. " seems to be a dramatic overstatement.

Re:The claims in summary = article + meshed/shorte (1, Troll)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238929)

also "The Solar Roadwayà will, therefore, eliminate half of the greenhouse gases currently being produced. " seems to be a dramatic overstatement.

Overstatement? I doubt there's any truth at all to it. How much carbon do you think it takes to fabricate 25,000 square miles of solar panels? As if we even have the capacity to manufacture that much; entire facilities would have to be built from the ground up. We already have roads; tearing them up and replacing them would certainly be a loss compared to just putting up panels in the desert and leaving roads alone. Then there's all the infrastructure to process and distribute the power from the roads and water cool them.

Re:The claims in summary = article + meshed/shorte (1)

virmaior (1186271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238975)

fair point.

I was just trying to imagine there was something other than marketing + hope in the website or blog post

the more i think about it the more i realize this project will only work if a new form of relativistic physics arrives that has hope as the magic term.

that's also what i think of the new health care cost plan, but that's for another thread.

Re:The claims in summary = article + meshed/shorte (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239107)

There are many different types of solar panels, composed of a variety of different materials with different photo-voltaic properties and different levels of construction difficulty. Unfortunately many of these materials are expensive, and especially in the case of thin-film panels a variety of not-so-nice materials can be used. While a constructed panel can be used enough to theoretically be worth its cost and cover its impact on construction (including the environmental impact of harvesting materials) most panels aren't repeatedly run over by trucks. If these actually get deployed I expect they'll all just get broken right away and you'll have a whole lot of potentially dangerous bio-waste to deal with.

Where in the world??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29238849)

Where in the world--let alone in the U.S.A.--do you come up with 25,000 square miles of roadway to replace? That's 500 miles X 500 miles of roads.
I can haz assfault?

Someone should tag this "RoadsMustRoll" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29238851)

And everyone else should go read the story.

Coefficient of friction... (3, Insightful)

SirCowMan (1309199) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238859)

Glass? That can not be safe, the grip issues alone would preclude it. One good jack-knife, and shards of road all over the place sounds pretty dangerous too. The biggest hang-up here is certainly not cost, but safety.

Duh... (5, Funny)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238899)

They are going to cut 1/2 the greenhouse gases by getting more and more cars off the streets and into repair shops!

Re:Coefficient of friction... (1)

13bPower (869223) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239229)

Yeah, anything that smooth will be interesting to drive on. Can't they dope the asphalt with silicon or something and do it that way?

You got to be kidding (1, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238867)

Road surfaces? You mean the same ones that get demolished every winter because of plows?

I was going to make more of a point, but I'm not going to bother...

Re:You got to be kidding (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29238893)

They claim the Solar Roadways are self heating and shouldn't need to be plowed since the snow wont' accumulate.

Re:You got to be kidding (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239163)

I've engineered small electric heating and cooling systems before for various projects, and have dealt with solar panels. I'll tell you right now, solar panels harvest next to no energy in cloudy weather (common for the winter, yes?) let alone in the rain or snow. On top of that they amount of energy required to produce heat is incredible, and even rather efficient heat producing materials like ni-chrome wire would suck the energy out of a capacitor bank in no time - not to mention the distribution of heat required to continually melt snow would require a feat of engineering wizardry. Oh, and here in Japan the trucks put chains on their tires in the winter when it is snowing, even if the upper "protective" glass layer can hold up against normal tires in normal conditions a cold panel being driven over by a shipping truck with chains on the tires would most definitely demolish it.

Re:You got to be kidding (1)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238917)

Usually winter roads are destroyed because of the expansion of water that freezes inside it.
A friend of mine said that Minnesota roads are great because they're alway frozen during the winter (can anyone confirm this?)

Re:You got to be kidding (1)

imikem (767509) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239125)

Minnesota roads. Great. Umm. Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-35W_Mississippi_River_bridge [wikipedia.org]

I'll go with a "negative" on that confirmation, being born and raised in flyover land. There are redeeming qualities to Minnesota, but I won't list roads (or drivers) amongst them.

No way this stands up to the weather in Minny. How does it generate electricity to warm itself and keep free of snow when the sun is above the horizon for about 6 hours, and even then is hiding behind thick gray cloud from November to March? Good luck with that. Maybe somewhere the climate isn't as extreme.

The one thing I do like about the idea is that roads already represent despoiled terrain, so we're not increasing our footprint, plus they naturally lead toward population centers, minimizing extra transmission lines.

Re:You got to be kidding (1)

_Shorty-dammit (555739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238923)

OK, even the SUMMARY contains a sentence that says the roads wouldn't need plowing in the winter because they heat themselves to automatically melt any snow accumulation. How exactly is it that you figure you would plow something that isn't there?

Re:You got to be kidding (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238997)

OK, even the SUMMARY contains a sentence that says the roads wouldn't need plowing in the winter because they heat themselves to automatically melt any snow accumulation.

So we're installing these fancy new solar panels in order to generate less electricity than will be required to heat them in the winter?

Re:You got to be kidding (4, Funny)

printman (54032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238949)

Yeah, since the roads will be glass they'll replace the plows with big squeegees.

Ok, thought experiment here: (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29238879)

For all the time, energy, and materials needed to make a transparent, wear-resistant glass roadway with solar panels, wouldn't it in fact be easier to stick to concrete/asphalt, and instead build roofs over every highway/interstate in the country? You could put solar panels on top of those, with existing technology, and not have to worry about things like grit causing erosion, oil spills, etc.

Because as phenomenally expensive and complex as turning the entire highway system into a shaded tunnel would be, it would still be less expensive than such a ridiculous melange of technologies. Roads should be durable and provide high grip. Solar panels should be kept clean and run at maximum efficiency at all times. Mushing the two together into some pathetic hybrid is just idiotic.

Hacker's dream (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238887)

I can see it now. Someone will gain control of the LED functions and splash some geeky internet meme over 250k square miles of roads across the country.
Or some ascii pr0n.

Re:Hacker's dream (1)

skine (1524819) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238943)

The next Die Hard movie!

(As in it's stupidly impossible, yet most people won't know it. Similar to how any fat lazy Anime fan can find anything on any government website in less than ten minutes, and will still complain about how hard it is.)

Quibble (4, Interesting)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238897)

How will the oil drippings and the tire residue affect the panel output?

What a dumb idea. (3, Interesting)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238901)

So, it snows like MAD, dumping a foot or so on the road in a few hours. Emergency vehicle has to get through, so they pop the chains on the tires.

So much for the solar panels when a 4 ton 4WD EMT truck rolls along on at 40mph.

RS

Epic Fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239001)

So, it snows like MAD, dumping a foot or so on the road in a few hours. Emergency vehicle has to get through, so they pop the chains on the tires.

So much for the solar panels when a 4 ton 4WD EMT truck rolls along on at 40mph.

RS

You realize of course that no one is proposing you put solar panels in Alaska. 25,000 square miles is not the equivalent of replacing every road in America. The idea is to put the roads in dry, desert like areas.

Re:Epic Fail (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239041)

The idea is to put the roads in dry, desert like areas.

How much snow do you get in 'dry, desert-like areas'? For that matter, how many roads do you find in such areas? For that matter, if this is restricted to 'dry, desert-like areas', why not, like, just build big piles of solar panels across the desert and forget the whole 'road' thing?

Re:Epic Fail (1)

shibashaba (683026) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239147)

i like this idea. i'm sick of all these stupid traffic laws

Re:What a dumb idea. (1)

chickenarise (1597941) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239017)

Tell me good sir, how fast does snow accumulate on a surface well above 0 degrees Celsius that has a source to keep it heated?

Re:What a dumb idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239079)

It isn't a matter of the road having ice or not. Regardless of the surface condition of the solar road, inevitably, a different road that the vehicle has to travel on would necessitate chains for access.

Re:What a dumb idea. (1)

virmaior (1186271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239091)

a basic problem is that it often snows at night, good sir. how do propose to power a solar cell at night in order for it to have the energy it needs to melt ice across its entire surface?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enthalpy_of_fusion [wikipedia.org]

we're looking 333.55 J/cm^3 of water. So at 16m^2 per panel, it's 1.6 x 10^6 * 3.3 x 10^2 = J/cm of water = ~ 5 x 10^5 kJ/cm of water ...

that's a pretty decent amount of energy not including the amount needed to heat it up to 0C in the first place.

Re:What a dumb idea. (1)

green1 (322787) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239127)

At -35c how much electricity would it take to keep the surface above 0c? and do you really think that the solar cells will be generating that much at night to ensure it stays warm enough?
I should also note that the absolute most dangerous roads are the ones hovering near zero because that means you're driving on actual ice and not snow, or worse yet, wet ice.

Re:What a dumb idea. (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239139)

1. as someone noted below, it often snows at night. So much for solar power heating the roadway then.

2. In an intense blizzard, it gets pretty dark out, so even then, your sun power is limited, and there's no way it can beat the accumulation. Just take average sun insolation (which will be reduced do to cloud cover) x 0.15 then x 0.(x) reduced efficiency to heat (2nd law thermo and all that) and divide that into the amount of energy needed to melt a foot of snow. Answer: not going to happen.

3. It only takes ONE truck with chains to make hash out of those panels.

Verdict: it's still a dumb idea.

Basic thermodynamics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29238905)

I haven't even read the article, but I see a major problem in the roads being able to heat themselves to keep off snow. If there were that much solar energy available, black tar roads would be able to keep the snow from accumulating on them.

  Clearly, this is not what happens in Michigan.

Re:Basic thermodynamics... (1)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239007)

But much of that energy is just dissipated when there is no snow, this can pull energy off the grid if it needs to, and store energy it gets from the sun to use specifically when it detects snow.

Re:Basic thermodynamics... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239021)

But much of that energy is just dissipated when there is no snow, this can pull energy off the grid if it needs to, and store energy it gets from the sun to use specifically when it detects snow.

If the heat of the sun isn't enough to melt the snow on the road, how is a 15% efficient solar panel going to produce enough heat to do so? Particularly at night?

Re:Basic thermodynamics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239217)

Well, first of all the sun isn't very good at melting snow because snow is reflective.

Second of all, 15% efficient solar panels are probably much closer to 100% efficient at heating themselves (or could be made to do that very easily).

It's basic thermodynamics.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (2, Interesting)

Redfeather (1033680) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238931)

Another great idea just BEGGING for poor execution. Although I do have to say, the innovation aspect does sound interesting.

Vandals will LOVE this... (1)

terdog1 (788431) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238933)

Hack into the LED, obscenities, and worse rap lyrics IN the road. Worse still, 12:00, 12:00 12:00....

Reminds me of another project mentioned here (3, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#29238963)

There was a building designed with flooring that uses the energy of people walking on it to help power the place.

I think that solar power might be ridiculously expensive, but if they captured the hear from the road's surface and extracted the energy from that in some way, it might be quite effective and a lot less expensive. I can't speak for roads in other parts of the country, but here in Texas, walking bare foot on any paved way or even on sandy soil will result in burns in the summer.

Re:Reminds me of another project mentioned here (1)

Peaquod (1200623) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239239)

that heat is a clear indication of the amount of solar energy available. allowing it to convert to heat before capturing it would tremendously lossy. I also can't imagine how one might capture the heat energy effectively while still allowing traffic to pass over the road, so I'm skeptical about "a lot less expensive"

just snow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29238995)

what about dust? mud, leaves, how about rubber from the tires or just plain roadkill?, sure it's not that much but really ...

The Death of Slashdot (1, Informative)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239089)

I've noticed that the quality of this website has slowly decreased to the point it's not my first look anymore. After reading all of the armchair scientists instantly shooting down an experiment with I'm sure they have an inversely proportional knowledge of the subject and hand, I've think I've finally figured out. The AOLers are ruling the roost.

Re:The Death of Slashdot (1)

virmaior (1186271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239131)

well, i too think slashdot is getting worse, but i don't think the problem is in the comments section.

there's really been no work done on this project AFAIK. it's just hope, a dream, and a website so far. A couple napkin calculations and suggested solutions to the basic problems. Unfortunately, he didn't know that napkinning is a multi-person sport.

Re:The Death of Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239149)

This happened like 5 years ago.

slippery? (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239101)

Wouldn't this be terribly slippery? It's bad enough for motorbikes when they cover the road in paint, even without rain, but glass? Seriously?

Think of the Applications (1)

nomessages (1160509) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239121)

I read "glass surface" and the friction episode of The Magic Schoolbus comes to mind. Unfortunately, I don't think a real-life application of the complete lack of friction would help us all (or the children).

Brilliant... (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239143)

The higher the traffic, the less sun they'll get.

Solar powered flashlight... (1)

Chruisan (1040302) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239167)

Here's my question regarding the panels melting snow. How do you get enough energy to melt the snow when it has been accumulating all night? No sunlight to get through the layer of snow to power the solar panels to melt the snow. You still need to plow or salt the road. Kind of like a solar powered flashlight.

Huge problems (0)

wicka (985217) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239175)

Pricing is supposed to be competitive with concrete and asphalt? You just roll that shit down and it dries. Glass road surface? What sort of grip are you going to get on that? How about in the rain? What about potholes? There are almost certainly going to be gaps between the panels. What will happen when water freezes between them? I can't even be optimistic about this, it just won't work.

DoT spending (1, Interesting)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239177)

Somehow the DOT always manages to be run by idiots. How do those people get hired their anyways? A degree in something that implies intelligence doesn't appear to be a prerequisite.

I live in Boise, ID. A very significant portion of the population here visits the non-profit skiing and recreation area about 15 miles out of town. The road to get there is a long windy path that frequently gets icey and literally has steep cliffs along the side. Last year I went up there 5 times and saw 5 accidents on that road (1, 1, 0, 2, and 1 accidents respectively). I even have a picture of an SUV completely flipped over on my iphone as proof. To make things worse, the road is narrow and *very wide* ambulances often SPEED UP IT during the winter to help assist injured skiers. Last year I had an incident where I nearly scraped against an ambulance because it was barreling around a corner, taking up a portion of my lane, which itself was already narrow because ice had formed on the right-hand side and my car wouldn't go over any further. So when federal funding comes in for these road projects, do they spend any money putting up guardrails (yes, steep cliffs and NO GUARDRAILS), widening the road, or employing other tactics to improve safety? No, they blow that money doing a very crappy job indiscriminately resurfacing half the roads in Boise by dumping gravel on it, then the next day dumping oil on it, including ones that were repaved not even a year ago. The result is dings in our windshields and poor looking roads.

So overall, this sounds about on par with DoT spending. These people deserve to get fired, their incompetence with our money is a crime against society.

so a deer suddenly appears... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29239193)

and you jam on the brakes, does it tear up the surface? do you slide off the road leaving a black streak that can't be melted off with heat? What about blood on the array? As I remember, blood is very corrosive on many surfaces, not to mention very conductive to electricity...
 
have they really sold this to a bureaucrat? I have an idea to sell! hover boards for all! I will just go back to the future to get them! All I need is a Mr. Fusion and I'm set!

I hope they make the road surface out of diamond (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 5 years ago | (#29239253)

Knowing how quickly the roads in my city turn into potholes, the upkeep on this is something I can't even fathom.

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