Power Generating Roads Made From Embedded Solar Panels – Issues & Possible Solutions
Electrical engineer Scott Brusaw was inspired to start the company when he heard Caltech solar energy expert Nate Lewis suggest that covering just 1.7 percent of continental U.S. land surface with photovoltaic solar collectors could produce enough power to meet the nation’s total energy demand.
The idea although is very simple but has been, until now, overlooked. Covering the road surfaces with solar panels can not only power the street or traffic lights but can also provide electricity to local buildings. The true potential of this technique hasn’t been realized as yet.
Although quite a few companies around the world have installed such devices the technique is still is in its nascent state. Yes there will be problems due to movement of heavy vehicles but I’m sure they can be solved by use of tougher, durable but economically cheap material. Carbon fiber seems a good candidate to me since it is highly inert and can sustain high pressures. In-depth studies and surveys will have to be done before finalizing the design of such devices.
Now that solar panels are available at as low as $0.99 the engineers can look at solving the construction-related problems. Many have talked about laying completely new roads (some made of glass) but I believe that it would effectively defeat the very purpose of this technique. The technology should be so developed that it is so cost efficient that even developing and poor countries can adopt it. I’m not an expert at this but I think a plan wherein the solar panels could be embedded in the roads as they are, without any significant modification of the roads, would definitely be economically beneficial.
Obviously there are many issues related to this technology, some of which we haven’t faced as yet, but the approach seems to be in the right direction and with new innovations and a bit of creativity hopefully solar roadways woulds one day be a reality.