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March 20, 2010

Come Saturday Morning: Here Comes The Sun

Posted in: Energy

I’ve been following the Solar Roadways story at my home blog for a few months now.

To me, the idea is brilliant in that it solves several problems at one stroke. Instead of putting solar panels on thousands of square miles of wilderness or farmland or other land, why not take surfaces that are already paved and put them to work collecting solar energy, just in time for us to transition from oil to electric cars like the Chevy Volt? It also solves the issue of energy transmission loss rather nicely. One could use the roads to transmit energy from thousands of miles away, but why do that when the nearby roads, playgrounds and parking lots themselves can generate all the energy one needs without the losses inherent in long-distance transmission?

Some folks, thinking in terms of current (and fragile) glass solar panels, think it can’t be done. But other folks think the idea is worthy of an award. The US Department of Transportation is willing to give it a try, and has financed the building of the first prototype — pictures of which can be seen here as well as at the top of this post. (They didn’t have quite enough dough for the custom hardened glass they want to use, so the clear surface on the prototype is polycarbonate.)

So what do you think? Grab a cup of coffee and let’s discuss it.


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