Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Solar Roadways are a terrible idea.

I've long thought the buzz over the solar panel technology we have available now is idealistic nonsense and clueless wishful thinking.

Well, someone just brought that up an order of magnitude with the aggravatingly-popular Solar Roadways video, which says we should replace roads with glass-covered solar panels and use them to light and heat our roads.

I've seen a lot of people that I thought were reasonable jump on board this foolish bandwagon. Paradoxically, it was the folks at who put it in its place five years ago when the idea last came up by comparing it to something a 12 year old would dream up for a science fair project.

I honestly don't have the time to knock down all of the flaws in this plan. The numbers and costs are kept purposely vague, and economic concerns are waved off with a classic vulgar Keynesian pitch that says sinking all of our resources into this boondoggle will generate more money then it uses. It won't, but let's move on.

Lighting up the roads and heating them to melt snow sounds like it would consume much more power than it generates. Those flashy road pictures seem to sway some people, but the major selling point with this pipe dream is that we would save the space used by solar arrays by embedding the solar panels into existing road space.

While saving space is a good thing, the costs involved are astounding.

We'd have to put a lot resources into embedding the solar panels into a substance hardy enough to be driven on by a tractor trailer truck, which will make them more expensive and reduce the amount of light that hits the solar cells. We'd also have to care a great deal about clearing away the dust, dirt and tire marks that build up on the panels. Scratches on the surface will also reduce their ability to generate power.

Plus driving on these things creates new problems. They want the surface to be textured, but that will create havoc for plow trucks. Asphalt is expensive to install and maintain as it is, and it can be poured. This stuff is embedded with circuitry and can't simply be patched with more asphalt.

The creators of the idea claim that these things can all be solved, but they never say at what price. Even if I thought solar panels were a great idea, I wouldn't support making them more expensive and less productive just to save a little space.

On the plus side, at least the pitch video is childish and annoying.

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