Renewable energy is all the rage, but there’s a way to integrate renewable technologies with existing ones that we use every day. Take for instance roads. The Solar Roadways project aims to enable solar charging through roads and parking lots.
One of the challenges of establishing a solar energy farm is space. While energy from the sun is essentially free, the devices that convert photovoltaic energy into electricity usable by the grid takes a lot of money to design and produce. You can add the cost of land and facilities to that. It will turn out that solar energy can be extremely inefficient, in terms of the size to power ratio.
But if you have a big-enough surface area to place solar panels in, you can improve the yield of these photovoltaic cells. It turns out that we already have facilities for hosting solar cells: the road network. In the US, a startup called Solar Roadways aims to build solar panels right into roads, parking lots and other pavements. The goal here is to contribute to the grid, as well as power the road networks’ own array of heating equipment.
This means that the energy that the roadways gather will be used to melt snow on their own. The modular paving system can withstand up to 250,000 lbs of weight — meaning even the heaviest of trucks can drive right on top of the panels. An added feature is that the panels can be configured to display imagery, which means there will be no need to paint over the pavement for road or crossing signs.
Since the modular pavements can power themselves, they are essentially self-sufficient. These modules can melt snow and even treat storm water. And once inductive charging technology becomes commonplace in electric vehicles, Solar Roadways’ system will also support inductive charging for cars.
The team has actually received funding from the US Federal Highway Administration and the fundraising campaign is being done to muster enough money to build a prototype. Apart from US government support, the Solar Roadways campaign was also chosen by Google as one of its Moonshots in 2013. According to the team, the implementation of the project can help create jobs in the US and around the world, giving us “the ability to manufacture our way out of our current economic crisis.”
The project is aiming to raise $1 million on Indiegogo and has raised around $250,000 so far in a month’s time. With only 12 days to go until deadline, will Solar Roadways get enough backers?
Update: The Solar Roadways project has reached its $1 million target, attaining $1.32 million in pledges as of May 27th, with five more days to go.