Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Viable Solar Energy

The biggest problem with solar energy is the amount of space that would need to be covered with solar panels in order to collect enough energy to power a city.  Not only would the panels be ugly, they would take up a lot of countryside and unsightly power lines would criss-cross formerly pristine open spaces.  Also transfer of energy from the sun-rich south west to other areas of the country would be extremely costly, close to being impossible.

But what if the solar panels were actually part of something that already exists, like a road?  This is the brain child of Scott Brusaw, engineer and president of Solar Roadways, who has already invented a prototype road panel that can withstand the pressures of traffic.  His goal is to get the price down to $10,000 per panel, more expensive than asphalt, but built to last three times longer (the average asphalt road lasts ten years.)  Roadways and parking lots are already responsible for increasing temperatures within cities, why not make that sun ray absorption work for us.

Just imagine covering an existing resource (3.9 million miles of public roadway) that covers the entire country.  We would have more electricity than we need.  Also, because of the access to public roads in all cities, towns and rural areas in the country the electrical grid would be decentralized, thus eliminating problems with current electrical grids that are prone to failures and vulnerable to attacks.  If a panel fails or is destroyed it can be easily replaced.

Solar Roadways is green in more ways than one,  recycled materials such as water bottles, tires and other trash are used to make the middle layer of the panel.  There are also lots of other applications that the panels could be used for, such as traffic management, National security by tracking trucks with hazardous cargo, road illumination, electric vehicle charging stations at rest stops, water management by relocating roadway storm water runoff, and snow and ice mananagement.

Putting in solar roadways throughout the country would take time and would have to be phased in over several years, somewhat like the national higway building program started by President Eisenhower.  But as more and more cities like San Antonio make committments to go green, I can see this type of technology take hold.

1 comment:

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