Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Solar Roads

Make roads from solar cells we can drive on
  (+14, -6)(+14, -6)
(+14, -6)
  [vote for,

What if all that roadway blacktop was solar cells instead of asphalt, absorbing power and putting it into the power grid? Probably would be better if we drove on a clear surface and the solar cells were in a layer below that, and the cells could be changed/repaired without affecting the clear driving surface.
engelr, Jul 10 2001

rwb's link http://www.re-focus.net/
[po, Oct 04 2004]

Road energy system http://www.ooms.nl/...energy_systems.html
Road energy system by Dutch Company Ooms Avenhorn Holding [rwb, Oct 04 2004]

Asphalt colector graph http://www.ooms.nl/...energy_systems.html
Graph with annual energy output (thermal) from asphalt [rwb, Oct 04 2004]

(?) Runway project http://www.dhv.nl/f...ndhoven_Airport.asp
A Dutch airport runnway proposed to have solar thermal output. [rwb, Oct 04 2004]

Another Dutch company sporting solar (thermal) roads http://www.kema-kps...ences/solar_way.htm
[rwb, Oct 04 2004]

Cheap Solar Power http://www.cnn.com/...2/solar.cells.reut/
In development. [Eugene, Oct 04 2004]

(?) More Cheap Solar Power http://www.technolo...cles/rnb_030603.asp
More of a theory, not quite so likely. [Eugene, Oct 04 2004]

solar roadways http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml
a company is actually trying to do this [Bad Jim, Oct 05 2010]


       what about the road powering the car,as an electric train? might work on a road where cars passing is a rare event
technobadger, Jul 10 2001

       Put a roof on the road. Put solar cells on the roof, and make cars like bumper cars.
MuddDog, Jul 10 2001

       [PeterSealy][technobadger] If you guys want to do things the complicated (but probably more interesting) way, go right ahead. But I'm with [UnaBubba], I think the simplest way would be to make the asphalt itself photovoltaic...then stick a couple of wires in it and there ya'have it.
StreetLight, Jul 11 2001

       This is ridiculous! What's the point?   

       It's not like the big problem with photovoltaic solar power is finding someplace to lay down the solar panels. There is lots of space in the desert; there are plenty of empty lots and fallow farms; even in heavily developed areas, rooftop space is widely available (if you don't disturb the antennas).   

       No, the problem is that PV power is simply not economically competitive with the alternatives (fossil fuels, hydro, etc). Fix *that* and you'll see solar panels sprouting up all over.   

       OK, so there's no reason *to* do this. And there are lots of reasons *not* to do it:   

       Even without trying to get all fancy with photovoltaics, the concrete and asphalt we lay down -- simple materials optimized for being cheap, just sitting there, and not falling apart, not for being transparent or photovoltaic or anything like that -- decay in a matter of years. Roads must be regularly resurfaced or they will decay into oblivion beneath the wheels of trucks and the forces of nature.   

       Whatever wacky photovoltaics you use, they can't help but be *less* durable and *more* expensive (much more expensive!) than either ordinary asphalt or ordinary solar cells. So, the whole thing costs a lot more *and* there will be more road work.   

       It's just a losing proposition no matter how you cut it. Go design a better, cheaper solar cell (please!), but leave the roads alone.
egnor, Jul 11 2001

       What egnor said. If we could lay down photovoltaic tarmac it would probably be more sensible (in the US and probably Australia also) to lay down pads of it in salt pans or other desolate areas where 18-wheeled vehicles won't bust it all up in a matter of a year or two.
Dog Ed, Jul 11 2001

       Nice ideas, though maybe the real solution is to remove the cars/vehicle from the road - fullstop (period).   

       Fortunately here in Oz (Austraila) we have many roads with very few vehicles, in comparison to that of the US, where (I presume) this concept was 1/2 baked. So maybe there is potential (ha) here ?   

       P.S. Just found this site accidently - great stuff.
Geewizz, Jul 11 2001

       Ah, yes, an "accident"...the old "misspelled Google search trap" snaps up yet another hapless victim. Speaking of which, has anyone else noted the correlation between the debut of halfbakery and the onset of steadily declining global economic output?
beauxeault, Jul 11 2001

       I think for solar power we should build huge off shore sites like Oil rigs that just have solar panels and then run cables back to shore with all the power they produce. You could even build large ships that effectivily do the same thing. Otherwise we should just send a space ship to the sun to collect a few samples and then clone the samples with todays genetic technology. This would work out great because we all know Mr. Sun is such a nice guy he would love to help our energy problem.
Vavon, Jul 11 2001

       Well Vanon, as egnor mentioned above, we have plenty of ground right here in the deserts, so why go to sea?
Icarus, Jul 11 2001

       Some people, like me, value undevelopped land (even the desert). It seems to me if we could find another use for roads, as opposed to developping open land, we should explore this.   

       Another advantage to this idea, is the easy access to the roads. Instead of building new roads to the solar facilities, maintenance workers would just have to pull over to the side of the road.   

       Also many communications lines etc run along the side of roads, this power could be used in part for these systems.   

       I think this is a potentially excellent idea that someone should further study the feasibility for.
EvoketheTiger, Jul 12 2001

       I agree [EvoketheTiger]. Isn't it the fact that this idea sounds, but is not currently, possible what makes this idea half-baked?   

       [egnor][DogEd][UnaBubba] How go the Disolving Pajamas, Amazing Nose Oil Resources, and Babbage Coffee Machine (respectively)?
phoenix, Jul 12 2001

       This idea of photovoltaic asphalt has one feature that none of the naysayers has knocked-over yet. And that is...90 percent of the infrastructure that you'd need to make this idea work already exsists. Even the slowest rate of implementation I can imagine, simply folding it into the current "freshening" of our roads, could do a decent job of laying a lot of the stuff down in a usably short time. We have to maintain the road system anyway (although I understand that that's not necessarily universal).   

       The half of this idea that isn't yet baked is the asphalt itself...and since this is a dream, why stop with road tar? Put it in concrete...mix it into paint. Talk about pontential surface area.
StreetLight, Jul 13 2001

       phoenix: N-N-Nose Oil? No, not my precious Nose Oil...!   

       Since this is a serious technological (not primarily satirical, artistic, or silly) post, I've been treating it as such. But ya got a point. If we could come up with very small photovoltaic crystals embedded in a clear insulating matrix, and if the crystals could be induced to self-align such that they hooked up nose-to-tail in circuits (using a magnetic field? pressure?) while the matrix was semi-liquid... Well, it might be doable. Perhaps some form of microsphere could be coated with GA-doped silicon and packed into the matrix to make a syntactic foam? S-foam can be immensely strong (resistant to crushing, not so much to large-scale bending, I think), so maybe that would make a sufficiently durable pavement.
Dog Ed, Jul 13 2001

       [UnaBubba] Not yet, where do I sign up? I take it the java collects in a bit bucket under the contraption?   

       Perhaps we can all get together and come up with a Solar-Powered Babbage Nose Oil. Your honor.
phoenix, Jul 13 2001

       Forget putting the solar cells in the roads, put them over the roads and parking lots and shopping plazas. The panels could redirect rain and snow off the road preventing environment weathering and keep the road surface in optimum driving condition. The shade from a solar panel could prevent our cars from reaching 200 degrees while the cars bakes in the sun. Also shading roads and building could slow the formation of heat islands in the cities. This shading could lower our need for air conditioning thus saving energy from being used. Just some thoughts.
Tator, Aug 10 2001

       I'll go with that. Put solar roofs over all the exposed parking lots everywhere. If you use transparent panels and a bit of creativity it might not look too ugly.
hyc, Jun 15 2002

       I had the same idea, did a search on the internet, and came across this site. I never thought of putting down solar cells as such, as others have pointed out, that would be far too expensive, and they would be destroyed by the traffic. If it is to be feasible, the tarmac itself must be made able to capture solar energy somehow.
joarvat, Jun 18 2002

       I don't think the roads built from solar-cells would fly, but solar asphalt (see below) would be fantastic. Here are some comments on the criticisms ...   

       DUMB - Roof on the road - expensive. We already have plenty of roofed houses but we don't put cells on them.   

       DUMB - Dismissing the dual use of roads to collect solar energy. Would you want to be responsible for paving over double the amount of land we do now.   

       SMART - Making the asphalt photovoltaic... If you could find a LOW COST additive to add to asphalt that could collect solar energy and turn it to electricity, EVEN AT FRACTIONAL EFFICIENCIES, you would cure the energy problem without much cost and without additional land-use. If you found something that had only 0.5% efficiency, then based on the numbers here, you could generate approx. 1,200 GWh of electricity.   

       Here are numbers on US consumption from http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/usa.html. As of 2001, U.S. total net summer electric generating capacity was 854.7 gigawatts (GW). Of this total, 37% was coal-fired, 17% "dual-fired" (oil and natural gas), 16% natural-gas-fired capacity, 11% nuclear; 9% hydroelectric, 4% petroleum, 2% hydro pumped storage, and 2% "renewables" (geothermal, solar, wind).   

       The other thing nobody has considered here with alternative production methods is distribution. One of the largest problems with energy production today, is the loss during distribution. Send electricity any length over normal wires, and there is a loss. The farther away, the greater the loss. That is why off-short, and desert-based production is dumb. Your distance depreciates your efficiency. With in- or on-road solar energy production, electricity would be produced literally at your doorstep. One of the best things about it is also servicing. You actually ride on your method of generation and distribution.   

       Admittedly, there are problems with peak supply and demand times. Storage of accumulated energy and whatnot, but again, using wide-area distribution methods, every home could "bank" some electricity during the day. Where would I put it? Use the extra 350 GWh of possible production to power replacement water-heaters. They are the same size as the old tank jobs, but we eliminate gas-heating, go to an on-demand unit which requires almost no space, and replace the hot-water tank in every home with some sort of battery or capacitor. THEN you would get people possibly buying their own solar/wind/geo generators, since the mechanism to store that energy would be in every home.
trekbody, Feb 07 2003

       Interesting idea. could be problem with damage from cars, I like the idea of solar roof above the roads or on the sides of freeways. Solar Signage? Best though is put solar panels in the deserts as roofs, under these rooof plant trees....   

       Someone said: 'No, the problem is that PV power is simply not economically competitive with the alternatives (fossil fuels, hydro, etc). Fix *that* and you'll see solar panels sprouting up all over.'   

       This is not true. PV is economic competative and you can make and save money long term. In UK you get 40% grant if you install PV. http://www.solarcentury.co.uk   

       Solar Century claims there solar roof panels make more electricity than you need so put the excess back into the grid and you are a electric power company making money (in some countries). In US you wont get money for pumping electricity back into the grid. thats politics. Voters, you chose your future. Problem is that people dont think long term, and politicians only think 4 years ahead (self interest).
gudang, Mar 07 2003

       //Solar Signage?//   

       Where I live (Singapore), it's pretty common...   

       Croissant... Love the idea, as well as the idea of using solar cells to cover up carparks. How about a electricity-generating system that makes use of heat built up on the roads due to exposure to sunlight, rather than PV...?
LoneRifle, Mar 10 2003

       I came to this page when I typed solar asphalt in google because I intended to do some serious study on the matter. Comments here about PV being too expensive and easily damaged are practical. Collecting solar THERMAL energy from asphalt IS being done in the UK and Dutch roadways. Dutch officials report 30-35 deg C rise temperature rise over 15-20 deg. ambient temp from water tubing buried in paving. REFOCUS, a publication in the UK had an article on it recently. You might try a search on www.re-focus.net. The Dutch, it seems, intended to bury the tubing to circulate warmer ground water for de-icing, and to extend the roadway life, but found that in warmer weather they could redirect the heat energy from the road for usefull purposes. A new project includes paving several kilometers of road and supplying energy to 40,000 homes the article said. Someone thought they had a half-baked idea with PV, but solar-thermal is not too far fetched.
rwb, Jun 20 2003

       if you are sticking around, you might be interested in knowing that there is a link button to your left <waves arms in air hostess impression> for easy access.
po, Jun 20 2003

       Thanks po. I'd never visited 1/2b before. I've added other links on the realistic possibilities of solar (thermal) road surfaces. Enjoy. Note that the one on the dutch airport says something about requiring a subsidy. This seems on par with other renewable energy sources, but it's getting better.
rwb, Jun 23 2003

       While there may be other forms of renewable energy that are currently cheaper; perhaps that will change, but visual pollution can still be an issue. It'd certainly be easier and cheaper and visually non-polluting to cover everyone's roof with solar cells. I've heard of some skyscrapers that have photo-voltaic instead of merely tinted windows. I'd never thought of PV roads, but that seems too clever to dismiss out of hand. Someone should do some materials research and try to make it happen in a cost-effective manner. Even if they don't succeed, perhaps they will discover something useful along the way, like some cheaper, low-maintenance paving material.
beland, Jun 24 2003

       I think this is basically a good idea that ought to be investigated. For instance, silica is an important component of any roadwork, and it can be made transparent. There is a lot of investigation on filmsy very low cost and low efficiency photovoltaics.   

       I agree with all those people who say we should first make better use our roofs, parkings and so, but this doesn't make this idea less atractive.
rpardell, Sep 02 2003

       A probably crazy method for building solar roads:   

       After the road has been constructed the traditional way, film type polymer solar cell is glued to concrete.   

       Then, melted sand is thrown over and terxturized.   

       Obviously the main problem i see is the polymer standing the process, but sure you find a lot more.
rpardell, Sep 02 2003

       I like the general idea. But rather than to drive on it what would be wrong with putting the cell panels in the medians between opposing traffic. That way there is less chance of damage to the cells, and safer to replace, less chance of traffic jams. Also with this idea I would like to point out that water could be used as a heat sink and converted to steam to run generators like the chem. plants do. Producing much more electricity than just the cells alone. By the way solar cells produce as much as 20 to 25% not 7.5 or 10 or 11%. The new research indicates that with one particular new discovery efficiencies of 50 to 70%. It is still being tested.
szak, Sep 22 2003

       I've Been reading 'cradle to cradle' by McDonough and Braungart (which I would highly recommend - see www.mbdc.com/) Then had a fantastic idea this morning! Why not turn roads into Solar power collectors? Looked up words in google and found this page. Someone already thought of it, bugger. Still doesn't stop it being a brilliant idea, though. One of the biggest benefits I can see is actually political. Whereas persuading individuals to buy solar panels is nigh-on impossible because they are relatively expensive, persuading councils or governments to outlay on such an obvious benefit would be easier - due to far larger quantities needed and finance available. This in turn would push down production prices as the demand reaches critical mass! It could also - as previously noted - solve the greenhouse problem even if only slightly effective. How do we encourage companies to take the idea seriously? It would need investment to work out the details.
Azukathebrave, Apr 21 2004

       You know, instead of PV cells, you can just run some water pipes under the surface of the asphalt. It's always warmer than the surrounding ground, so you can set up a nice temperature incline and run a generator off the water flow. Hell, I did it to my driveway once for a science fair project. (It didn't run a generator, it just made hot water, but alas.)
Madcat, Apr 21 2004

       This is an amazing idea. In particular I like the idea of a solar 'paint' discused by StreetLight and Dog Ed. Just a few coments -   

       regarding the putting panels over roads and all that - I for one like to see the sky while I'm driving.   

       Regarding some fictional mention of this idea - Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan.   

       Regarding putting panels in the desert - two words. Ugly. Albedio.
gangrelSmily, May 06 2004

       Some analysis I did on the issue:   

freality, Jun 11 2004

       I think it's a good idea that's probably just a bit ahead of it's time - and the necessary technology. Any surface exposed to sunlight deserves consideration and paved surfaces represent a huge area. Power transmission lines often follow them and cross them. Big consumers of energy travel over them. Hardened tiles of tough glass or polymer, textured for grip, laid over better made concrete road sufaces would probably work and be reasonbly durable especially if the most hard wear parts of the road are avoided. Economical? Not yet. meanwhile Thermal has lots to offer.
Fabos, Jun 29 2004

       I didn't read everything said so far, but I've had this idea myself. I'm not sure if anyone added this, but roads would make the ultimate electric grid also -- considering they connect everything anyway. Not only would the power be produced -- it would be transported.
EdisonsTwin, Jul 11 2006

       Take a look at www.solarroadways.com
scott5253, Jun 09 2007

       That's a whole lot of roads to keep clean.. And i've never seen an idea tha would encourage the theft of roads, until now.   

       Translucent surfaces? Why not just keep it all black, so it gets hot during the day, run your water supply just under it so you can heat your water while it comes to your community.
twitch, Jun 10 2007

       My dad years ago did a calculation that if we took the medians of the US Interstate system and covered them with low performance solar cells (like .1% efficient), we could furnish the electric power for the entire USA. ... It would be a distributed system, and many rural areas could be powered almost fully solar.   

       I would think that if we did roughly the same with rooftops nationally we could get similar results.   

       The trick is getting CHEAP solar cells with low production and installation cost that are environmentally stable enough to handle being left out and not being cleaned. ... A tall order with todays technology.
servant74, Nov 21 2009

       [scott5253] joined us here on June 9 2007 to post the fourth anno above and was never heard from again. Beware, my children, the dangers of the interweb.
normzone, Nov 21 2009

       when they do that they can build water preheat tanks under the roadway as well as solar cells on top(ish) and make everybody responsible for maintenance of their own stretch of road in return for a major energy bills reduction/cancellation.
FlyingToaster, Nov 21 2009

       Asphalt Cost Per Ton?   

       The cost of asphalt per ton varies depending on the type of asphalt and where you get it from. It can range from just $73 per ton, and go up to over $125 per ton. There is also recycled asphalt which is less expensive.   

       Solar cost per ton?
popbottle, Sep 14 2013


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