As we become more and more aware of the fact that oil reserves are depleting and that carbon emissions are the cause of global warming and the erosion of the ozone layer, we’re putting extra effort into looking for alternative sources of energy. We’ve talked on the blog before about alternative fuels for cars and how to make the most of your gas mileage, but what if there was a completely renewable source of energy, one that, in fact, didn’t need renewing so much as harnessing? Enter solar energy. What did you think of when you read the words “solar roadways”? If you pictured cars driving over solar panels that capture the sun’s energy, you’d be about right.
What Are Solar Roadways?
Imagine a highway. It’s asphalt, maybe there are some potholes. Now imagine that instead of asphalt, you see solar panel after solar panel. Those solar panels are taking in the sun’s rays and converting it into usable energy “by using semiconductors to absorb light and create a flow of electrons, which can power any number of electrical devices.” Because these panels would make roads, it’s safe to assume that energy would go into powering streetlights and traffic signals. The energy collected could also feed into the power grids of nearby towns and cities.
How Realistic Are They?
While solar roadways sound like a no-brainer, they may not be the most feasible thing at the moment. Over on HowStuffWorks.com, they say each solar panel costs about $7,000 to manufacture. That price tag isn’t exactly conducive to repaving every street and highway in the country with panels. Installing and maintaining these roads would also be costly, and it’s not yet known whether the panels can stand up to traffic the way asphalt can. But proponents of solar roadways say they’d start on a small scale to test how the panels can stand up to anything that cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more can throw at them.
This start-up based out of Idaho has been working since 2006 on making, testing, and refining solar panels suitable for use in solar roadways. Since their inception, they’ve received a grant from the Department of Transportation and raised 220% of its funding goal online through crowdfunding website Indiegogo. This is one of the companies to watch as solar roadways move closer to reality.