Monday, June 2, 2014

Solar Roadways are still an awful idea

A few days ago I wrote that the "solar roadways" project, which has raised nearly $2 million at this time from the public, is a terrible idea.

It's still a terrible idea, and I'm glad to see even more people are speaking out. While I think good criticism stands on it's own merits, I'm glad to see environmentalists speaking out about this bad idea. In the first post I shared a 2009 criticism from, and now Shea Gunther of Mother Nature Network has chimed in with a fresh piece of criticism:

The Solar Roadways website is light on numbers when it comes to costs and for good reason — as soon as you actually run the numbers, this project becomes completely untenable. It costs more money, produces less electricity at a higher cost, and introduces major new complexities into an already complex transportation system. The numbers won’t lie... 
Technically speaking, the video is a work of art. It obviously accomplished its purpose of bringing in the Indigogo dollars and has been shared far and wide on social media. But the video’s technical mastery doesn’t change the fact that the technology being described within is a bad and sketchy solution in search of a problem. 
The United States does not suffer for lack of space to mount solar panels. Just look up. There are millions of rooftops just waiting for solar panel installations to say nothing of the range of wide-open spaces found throughout America.

Defenders of the project keep promising that the technical issues are possible to solve. That may be true, from an engineering standpoint, but it doesn't mean it's smart from an economic standpoint.

I'm reminded of the first Game of Thrones book where King Robert's council is discussing hiring a Faceless Man to assassinate Daenerys Targaryen, and Littlefinger chimes in that it would be cheaper to hire a band of mercenaries to kill her. While the flashy supernatural shapeshifter approach is appealing on an emotion level, the rank and file soldiers would get the job done without breaking the bank.

By the way, while it's good that the crowd sourcing project is only taking the money of people who want to waste it, the solar roadway creators have already received $100,000 of the public's money through a federal grant. That's a complete scandal.

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