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World's First 'Solar Panel Road' Opens In France (theverge.com) 277

The world's first solar road has officially opened in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche in Normandy, France. The road is 1 kilometer long and can generate enough electricity to power the street lights. The Verge reports: That might not sound very impressive for 30,000 square feet of solar panels -- and it kind of isn't, especially for its $5.2 million price tag. The panels have been covered in a silicon-based resin that allows them to withstand the weight of passing big rigs, and if the road performs as expected, Royal wants to see solar panels installed across 1,000 kilometers of French highway. There are numerous issues, however. For one, flat solar panels are less effective than the angled panels that are installed on roofs, and they're also massively more expensive than traditional panels. Colas, the company that installed the road, hopes to reduce the cost of the panels going forward and it has around 100 solar panel road projects in progress around the world. Earlier this year, Solar Roadways partnered with the Missouri Department of Transportation to upgrade a small stretch of the historic Route 66 roadway with solar-powered panels. They too are facing the same seemingly insurmountable cost problems as Colas and the French.
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World's First 'Solar Panel Road' Opens In France

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  • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @08:37PM (#53541029) Homepage
    There must be people in high places who can't add, for these projects to be getting built.
    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Or cannot use google, where you can get to a cheaper and better solution [google.com] in under 2 minutes.

      • by tchdab1 ( 164848 )

        Hardening solar panels to withstand the wear of vehicles on them is fine for research, but you gotta believe there are other no-impact places to put them that would reduce the cost and win an argument for preference unequivocally when planning a big deployment. But maybe the French have money to burn (!) on infrastructure, while we're buried in tax cuts and war materiel.

        • This experiment will be interesting purely as a wear test. Ifthey can make a panel that will withstand road wear reasonably well and not itself be a hazard to drivers, then they can look at improving power production.

          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            Considering the problems we have along sections of the 401? Unless the material is both strong and flexible, it'll never catch on. Right now the highway around here uses a multilayer solution to stop flexing and destroying the blacktop layer. These days around here it's a 10" sand layer, followed by 12-18" gravel crush, 8-24" concrete layer and a final 6-18" blacktop layer. That's along one of the busiest highway section in the world(Toronto to Detroit).

            • Considering the problems we have along sections of the 401? Unless the material is both strong and flexible, it'll never catch on.

              Considering how many companies are working on embedding solar panels, I'm sure enough work has been done to take this sort of thing into account. And even if there are specific problems in those sections of road that you mentioned, it doesn't mean that all roads will be as problematic and therefore mean that this technology is a flop.

              If it doesn't work in the real world, then tests like this one will find the problems.

        • Hardening solar panels to withstand the wear of vehicles on them is fine for research, but you gotta believe there are other no-impact places to put them that would reduce the cost and win an argument for preference unequivocally when planning a big deployment.

          That would be true in rural areas, but closer to the cities there is an awful lot of real estate taken up by roads. If they can make multiple use of the land then it makes sense. And it's not as if the solar panels could only be in one place or the other. If there are other places for the panels then install two lots and generate even more electricity.

    • It's just pork barrel environmentalism.

      Local government without a clue spending other people's money on things they think makes them look good, without any actual effort to make a real difference, and instead lining the pockets of business set up to fleece just such idiots.

      And yet there media will in general laud such efforts... Giving the motions exactly the payoff they are after.

      Welcome to the new green.
      Does nothing for the environment, but lines a lot of pockets and furthers the political plans of the co

    • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @09:53PM (#53541349) Journal

      French project actually works and it doesn't try to heat the snow away or light up that deer while it's crossing the road.

      French have just made a highly durable and highly expensive type of solar panels. And they've covered a kilometer of road with those panels, for test purposes.
      Solar FREAKING Highways crowd haven't made shit but a small section of sidewalk. [bonnercountydailybee.com]
      Consisting of 30 panels. And they missed their deadline on that cause their panel manufacturing process burned out their panels.

      Both projects ARE going the wrong way about generating electricity from solar power.
      But French might actually get there some day.

      • The point is, you can put them above the traffic for a small fraction of the cost of putting them below the traffic. More efficient, too. Cover every rooftop with solar shingles before laying the first solar road. It's just common engineering sense.
        • Cover every rooftop with solar shingles before laying the first solar road.

          The problem is that the government doesn't own the rooftops, but it does own a lot of roads.

          • The problem is that the government doesn't own the rooftops, but it does own a lot of roads.

            The government owns the building codes. They can mandate that houses have passive solar design, which itself produces (and saves!) a whole load of energy by providing free heating in the winter and reducing cooling needs in the summer. This also means the house will be solar situated, with the "correct" facing for solar production.

            They can also mandate a certain amount of solar in commercial construction over a certain size.

            • That's true, and I'm sure that one day the building codes will mandate those things. However, that still doesn't light up the street lights, which is what this project is all about, so the solar roads are still a good idea.

        • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @03:55AM (#53542209)
          Of course they could stick panels on roofs or mount them on poles above ground, but perhaps the purpose of the experiment (since it is an experiment) is to see what happens when they do it like this. What are the costs, problems and benefits of such a solution compared to other ways? The only way to tell is to try.
          • that rationalisation is lost on the anti-crowd.
          • The only way to tell is to try.

            That is utter garbage. What happened was 100% the exacted predicted outcome. It worked, poorly, and is stupidly expensive compared to other options.

            Hey tell you what. I'm a Nigerian prince and if you wire me $100000 you may get a share in $10000000. The only way to tell how well this works is to try right? Or will you apply some kind of thought process to determine if this is a stupid idea before you send me the money?

        • Would you want a solar panel on your roof being used for street lighting? I'd prefer it powering my house.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        There seem to be a lot of Dave Jones fans jumping on this one, after he tried to debunk other solar paving projects. Colas have a workable system here, which promises to be cheaper than normal road surfaces in the long run.

        Their system involves placing a layer of durable solar PV over the top of a road bed. This is relatively cheap to do because the panels are pre-fabricated. If they get damaged, say by an accident, it is easy to remove and replace them.

        Obviously the prototype is going to be very expensive.

        • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @05:32AM (#53542455) Homepage

          Once they start mass production the cost will fall. When considering the cost, you have to factor in labour costs and the cost of closing the road for the time required to resurface it too, and how long the road surface will last, and what the on-going maintenance costs are.

          And in the meantime, putting the solar panels *beside the road* (*) is still cheaper, more energy efficient and their installation is a tiny bit less invasive to traffic.

          --

          (*) : like roofing over a bike path [google.ch], on the roof of noise barriers [imgur.com], or simply along the road [boston.com], etc. I.e.: places where the surface also belongs to the department of public roads, but where the panels are much more efficient by being better oriented and not shadowed by the traffic, where aren't subject to constant wear and tear by said traffic, and thus won't need tons of engineering to come up with a solution that could protect tham (like TFA's silicon layer).

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Sure, you still have to provide a road surface no matter what. You are forced to spend that money, so you have to choose between tarmac or something else. If the something else costs the same or less and has other benefits, the choice is clear.

            That's what this whole thing rests on. If they can get the price down to a point where it's about the same as the tarmac surface they were going to use anyway (and the French use quality tarmac finishes, not the cheap stuff, and don't forget labour costs and maintenan

      • French project actually works

        Something that works, and something that adds up and makes sense are two very different things. Of course it works. It is still incredibly frigging stupid to create a road like that with such a cost and such a shitty power output.

        I'm sure the French can get there some day. They should take their amazing working technology and mount it on a large roof pointing in the direction of the sun. Maybe I should patent this concept.

    • yep, spend 5.2 million to save a couple of hundred dollars a month on power. Even if they manage to halve the cost that is a massive 2.5 billion dollars to run some street lights for that 1000 kilometres, some real fucked up economics happening there. Even from a green angle that money could be way better spent reducing pollution or with proper green power plants.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dunkelfalke ( 91624 )

        How much do you think 1 km of a normal road costs?
        Hint: about a third of this solar panel road, and that was just a pilot project. If it works well - and the solar panels might even live longer than tarmac - then it will be quite cost-effective in mass production.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      What do you mean can't add? They either give subsidies so people can generate their own power or they do stuff like this so people will continue to be reliant on large energy companies for their power.

      For any tax funded power generation project like this, you can fund several times that amount in small hyperlocal, independent power generation.

    • Either that or they are meant to destroy renewable investment.

    • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @11:20PM (#53541665)
      This looks like a Research project, not an Infrastructure project. Its not intended to solve a problem today, its intended to better understand moving an idea from the laboratory to the real world in the future. In short its an experiment, investigating a day when some future much higher efficiency and much more durable technology might be incorporated into roads.
    • All problems are insurmountable if you don't even try to solve them. I can see why using roads could be attractive, if it can be made to work: most roads basically just sit there, unused for about 90% of the time. I think most country lanes are like that - maybe the occasional tractor, a few local inhabitants; and solar panels take up space that could be used for housing, agriculture or other useful purposes (including nature reserves). If you canÃt drive on them, then perhaps you can raise them up as

  • Thunderf00t! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pax681 ( 1002592 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @08:38PM (#53541035)
    Nuff said
    https://www.youtube.com/user/T... [youtube.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      https://www.google.ca/search?q=dave+jones+solar+roadways

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      These are not as bad as "solar freakin roadways" because they do not attempt to light up the roads or melt snow. It is a huge waste of money but at least, the laws of physics are safe.

  • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @08:46PM (#53541079)

    Once you have achieved a feat like this, the last thing you want is for your shiny new solar road thingy to be destroyed by tigers. I've got access to the finest all natural tiger repellent. I've been wearing it for a year and haven't had one tiger mess with me. Please have the people in this city's procurement office give me a ring, and I will give them a great price. While I have them on the line, I will mention some of my other offerings: hyperloop, water seer, and magic beans.

    The taxpayers of this town are the real VIP.

    • I will mention some of my other offerings: hyperloop, water seer, and magic beans.

      Bingo, and thank you.

      And don't forget the latest stupid idea, "spinning solar panels [metabunk.org]". There's so much wrong with the idea I hardly know where to start.

      • Hah, you scoff now, but when I unveil my windmills with solar-panel-covered blades, you'll just stand in AWE of my awesomeness...
  • Wait until... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by esperto ( 3521901 )
    They find out that installing those panel on the side of the road at an angle will greatly increase the power output, and that you don't need to keep cleaning the panels, and that with nothing to interrupt the sun light and effectively turn off sections of panels, they can also increase the power output, and that without heavy vehicules running over and screating the panels, they can have constant power output for the lifetime of the panel, and that you don't need to interrupt traffic everytime a panel gets
    • You miss a very, VERY important point. If you have the solar panels at an angle, it's hard to drive on them! Why would you put the panels at an angle facing the sun, just so all the cars and trucks could slide off of the road?
      • If you have the solar panels at an angle, it's hard to drive on them!

        Not if they are on a heavily banked high-speed turn. Perfect for high-speed European driving.

        • I like where you're going with this... OR could we put suction cups on the tires so they can handle the angle at lower speeds?
  • Can someone tell us what the benefit of these solar "roadways" is that isn't apparent and justifies the absurd expenditure vs. installation on roofs and open fields? I am truly at a loss to explain why this technology continues to be ramrodded into deployment.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The benefit is pork, Son. Pork.

      • I can understand pork, but what makes "this" kind of pork more popular than any other alternative placement of solar? It's as if they are purposefully creating a boondoggle such that they can later point back to it as demonstrative proof that solar is a waste of money. Wait. Oh...
    • There is no benefit, is just people being ignorant and/or not being able to do math. Solar panels, even when installed in a great place at the recommended angles and directions take a pretty good amount of time to pay for themselves, because they are quite inefficient at converting solar radiation to electrical power, when you remove the optimum installation angle, the self cleaning that this angle provides, a thicker more opaque glass to be able to handle traffic going over it, the scratches and dirt that
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 )

      Can someone tell us what the benefit of these solar "roadways" is that isn't apparent and justifies the absurd expenditure vs. installation on roofs and open fields? I am truly at a loss to explain why this technology continues to be ramrodded into deployment.

      An experiment.

      Not too many years ago, some folks were saying the same thing aout any solar installations.

      I'm big on solar, and I doubt this particular experiment wll work out that well. But it won't work out at all if no one tries it.

      I suspect that you don't actually like solar for some reason or other, because you appear to have the attitude that this ramrodded Research in solar Must Be Stopped!

      Any other promising research that you want stopped?

      • by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @09:29PM (#53541255) Homepage

        Or... It's just a stupid idea that everyone should know will fail from the start? I don't need to put my cat in the stove to know it's a bad idea anymore than I need to spend millions on solar panels in the road to know that's a bad idea.

        • You do need to put your cat in the stove if you're really really hungry though.

        • It's just a stupid idea that everyone should know will fail from the start?

          There was a time that people thought going faster than 35 MPH on a steam train was suicidal, as the human body couldn't withstand higher locomotive speeds. Hence, no need to build faster trains. Of course, no one listened to them and faster trains were anyway. Just because an idea is stupid today doesn't mean it won't be a everyday thing tomorrow.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 )

          Or... It's just a stupid idea that everyone should know will fail from the start?

          Perhaps. But what does fail even mean? As I noted in another post, the likely test subject in this whole thing is the material the cells are in, and the connections. Its a tough environment.

          So many science/technology projects have a lot of failures. And the earlier you go in the research, the more likely the failure, and the more likely you know it will fail.

          I don't need to put my cat in the stove to know it's a bad idea anymore than I need to spend millions on solar panels in the road to know that's a bad idea.

          That is a little bit of a non sequitur. There has been a lot of progress in glasses in recent years. The wildly reviled (on Slashdot anyway) sola

          • what does fail even mean?

            It means being more expensive than conventionally mounted panels, for short.

            Would solar panels on the wings of a jumbo jet work? Yes. Would they ever save enough money in extra fuel required to run the generators to power the onboard electronics to make it an economic consideration? Not unless you can get the entire system weight down to 400g.

      • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @09:31PM (#53541259)

        Any other promising research that you want stopped?

        You seem to be assuming that this project is promising. With a bit of basic math, you can figure out that the costs are insanely high, aren't likely to come down any time soon, and would be much better spent building regular solar farms that we know work pretty well.

        How about we stop this terrible project, and spend the money on something more promising? Storing energy created by solar/wind is still a pretty big issue, how about throwing some money at that problem?

        • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @09:51PM (#53541343)

          Yes, the cost of this road is very high. So was the cost of all early solar panels. Solar panels have come down in cost to the point where they are now cheaper than any other source of electricity, except wind. Batteries are the same. Early battery storage was very expensive. Now the cost has come down to the point where hard headed utilities are installing battery peaking storage because it is cheap.
          This road is expensive but it is a prototype research project. It may or may not turn out to be cost effective in the long run but it should be tested.
          If you're worried about public subsidies, you might start with the $ 5.3 trillion a year that fossil fuels receive.

          • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

            This road is expensive but it is a prototype research project. It may or may not turn out to be cost effective in the long run but it should be tested.

            Why should it be tested? What problem is this solving? Know where there is tons of cheap, empty space for solar panels? Land *next* to highways. They are putting them in all over the place in my area. You can also put them in over parking lots. And on top of factories (*much* cheaper than putting them on homes.) We can do all of this *now*

            Because we waste money on fossil fuel subsidies doesn't mean it's also OK to waste money on bad engineering projects.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              What problem is this solving?

              It's actually less about the solar aspect and more about having a durable, modular, pre-fabricated road surface.

              Laying tarmac is expensive. It needs maintenance. It has a limited lifespan. An improvement on any of those aspects will be worthwhile. Building module sections in a factory means you can make them much more complex than just a layer of tarmac, and thus much more durable and with features like cat's eye lighting and road markings baked in.

              The solar bit helps reduce the cost even further. Even with

              • It's actually less about the solar aspect and more about having a durable, modular, pre-fabricated road surface.
                Laying tarmac is expensive. It needs maintenance. It has a limited lifespan.

                Any replacement will have the same problems, plus a bunch of new ones. You can repair a tarmac road with a hot oil patcher. You can't repair a solar road, it has to be replaced. (Maybe you can return it to the factory for refurbishment, but I'd bet it will turn out to be cheaper to build a new one.) We see the same problem with concrete roads. They are hot garbage. The road bed still deteriorates under them, but you can't patch them. You have to rip out sections and replace them, or you have to cover them w

                • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

                  Do you really think that tarmac is the ultimate road surface, impossible to improve on?

                  Also, how do you know that the expected mass production cost of this new surface will not be low enough to be competitive? They have not published a final purchase price for the modules yet. Are you privy to some non-public information?

                  • Do you really think that tarmac is the ultimate road surface, impossible to improve on?

                    Nope. I just think that this isn't the day that it will be improved upon. We've been trying for a very long time, and we keep coming back to tarmac because it is maintainable. Maintainability is extremely underappreciated, which is why we're not still using more rail.

      • Any other promising research that you want stopped?

        It is not "promising", and every euro squandered on this nonsense, is one less euro that can be used to fund something that actually makes sense.

      • The disadvantages of putting solar panels on roads are huge: not only is the angle wrong and are the panels covered by dirt, dust, snow, etc. but roads are subject to considerable wear and tear that requires a massive construction to have any kind of longevity. If it then turns out that the panels are only good enough to light up a few streetlights (i.e. do not even recover the energy used in their production), I think it is absolutely fair to criticize this project.

        Moreover, both the angle problem, and the

      • Not too many years ago, some folks were saying the same thing aout any solar installations.

        Not at all. We were saying very different things about rooftop Solar. But hey we can solve the problem with the roadways too. Just angle the roads to face the sun and ban vehicles from driving on it.

        The reason this is different is that any improvement to the solar roadways translates to an improvement on the roof where the solar panels make far more sense. There's just no reason to put them on a road.

    • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @09:17PM (#53541207)

      Can someone tell us what the benefit of these solar "roadways" is that isn't apparent and justifies the absurd expenditure vs. installation on roofs and open fields?

      The "benefit" (and I use that word loosely) is that it sounds like a wonderful idea to innumerate, scientifically illiterate people who say to themselves, "It's such a waste, having all those roads take up so much space. If only we could put them to better use!" And then those people decide to "invest" money in a company that promises to build solar roadways, or else that company persuades some politicians to spend money to demonstrate the technology, and make all those roads "better".

      Case in point: Solar Roadways, who collected $2M in crowdsourced funding through the use of a clever video ("Solar Freakin' Roadways!"). Now more companies are joining the gravy train. When people with more money than sense are willing to spend millions to create a system that will produce a few thousand dollars of electricity over its lifetime, there are plenty of companies that are quite willing to build useless prototypes.

      The interesting part is that the lay people who want to believe in solar roads will actually get defensive when you point out that it would make far more sense (and be far cheaper) to put solars panels on every rooftop, instead of imbedding them into roadways. They want those "useless" roads to be put to better use; logic and expense be damned.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        would make far more sense (and be far cheaper) to put solars panels on every rooftop

        That's a fallacy. It's not an either-or proposition. The road has to exist for other reasons. It needs a surface for vehicles to drive on. There are advantages to pre-fabricated surfaces mass produced in a factory and quickly laid on site. The fact that they can put solar PV in the surface is just a bonus to reduce total cost of ownership.

        Put another way, you have to spend â XXX on the road surface no matter what. If you can spend the same or even a bit less over a few decades by installing a pre-fab r

        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday December 23, 2016 @05:17AM (#53542423) Homepage Journal

          That's a fallacy. It's not an either-or proposition.

          Yes, it is. There is only so much money to go around and solar panels can only be produced so fast. It would be better to spend the same effort producing panels which are actually useful, and installed in an intelligent location.

          • You have to surface the road. It's not surface the road vs. install solar PV on the roof.

            And if you save money surfacing the road by using pre-fab and generating some income from electricity, you have more left over to spend on roof mounted PV. Remember that in the long run, the proposition is that this road surface will be cheaper and more durable, meaning less disruption for repairs and resurfacing and the hard to estimate economic benefits that come with that.

            • Remember that in the long run, the proposition is that this road surface will be cheaper and more durable,

              Yes. Someday, in the mythical science-fiction future. You have to keep in mind that most of the same work has to be done for both types of roads. Surfacing is an afterthought compared to road bed construction and maintenance — which we're already skimping on. I'm going to come back to the CA 101 here, and its tilted slabs of concrete. If you don't do the basic maintenance and rework the roadbed periodically you're just going to have solar roads destroying themselves at their junctions when they're ask

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

                Fair point. In France the government tends to be involved in this stuff a bit more. Their autoroutes are largely privately owned toll roads, but highly regulated. They also do a lot to promote new technology, in the hope that it will benefit their economy in the long run. High speed rail is a good example.

                Considering the relatively small cost here, and the potentially huge pay-off... And Colas must have invested far more in R&D to get this far.

        • If you can spend the same or even a bit less over a few decades by installing a pre-fab road surface with solar PV, you will do it even if that PV is less efficient than it would be on a roof.

          The thing is, adding photovoltaic capability to a road isn't trivial. At all.
          It's not just using the king of "coat of Photo Voltaic paint" that is mentioned in some Sci-Fi books that would be just mixed with the road's tar
          (that would be rather trivially simple, if it existed).

          It's need to go at great length and expenses to achieve the engineering feat of taking something which is expensive and fragile and never designed to sustain repeated mechanical stress (a solar panel) and try to engineer around the lim

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            The sheer amount of investment to achieve this completely dwarfs any potential reduction of cost of ownership.

            Colas have already made that investment. They have working panels, this very story is about them opening the first road that uses them. The R&D is done, they are ramping up for mass production.

    • The government owns the roads already and can do whatever they want without the need for environmental impact studies.
      • At least in the US, the Federal Government owns massive amounts of land (about 28% of all the land [wikipedia.org]), and can do whatever it wants on that land already.
      • Yes, government own the surface occupied currently by the streets.
        So they want to make this surface more useful.

        But given the engineering complexity of trying to find a way to cram the delicate and expensive technology (PV panels) into pre-fab street pavement,
        from a purely economic point of view, it would make much more sense to invest the money into erecting poles (when there isn't already a handy above-ground surface like noise barriers, a roofing, etc.) and putting plain simple vanilla panels.
        They will a

    • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @10:15PM (#53541453)

      You said it yourself. The road is already there. Probably 97% of the time any given square inch of it is open to the sky to absorb whatever radiation might be coming in, assuming reasonable traffic loads, speeds, and spacing.

      This is real estate that would otherwise be wasted, whereas open fields might be used for other purposes and just maybe the owners of the roofs might have their own ideas on how to employ that incoming energy.

      Crying pork is no excuse. Pork drives lots of things, including fossil fuels. It has no special bearing on a project like this versus any other way the government steals from the taxed and gives to businesses.

      Crying futility is just pathetic. Some people will object to alternative energy no matter how it's handled, and I figure that they likely either have a vested interest in fossil fuels or are genetic throwbacks to the cave people who sat outside in the cold because that new-fangled fire stuff was obviously inferior and would never amount to anything. I mean really - what will you do when the wood burns up? What then, eh?

      • I cry Gauss's law. What's your rebuttal to that?
      • You said it yourself. The road is already there. Probably 97% of the time any given square inch of it is open to the sky to absorb whatever radiation might be coming in, assuming reasonable traffic loads, speeds, and spacing.

        If only there were other surfaces that were pointing up and couldn't be used to graze or grow food. Where could we find those? Maybe I'll ask Tesla if they have any ideas.

        In the meantime the local IKEA not only powers itself but on a really sunny day generates enough to power 800 homes in the vicinity of the store. Better still it's not 97% but 100%. However that doesn't matter, because far more important than the availability is the fact that on a roof you can point the solar panels in the right frigging d

  • But Main Street's still all cracked and broken
    Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken

    Monorail!

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday December 22, 2016 @09:09PM (#53541177)

    So is this a technology not even worth trying to develop with small scale pilots?

    Yes, the challenges are huge but I can't help but think that it's kind of worth experimenting with if only for the improvements in roadway quality. The biggest challenges to solar roads are durability and if that problem can be solved then theoretically it can benefit any road even if you build it without solar generation.

    If they can get the cost of it within an order of magnitude of traditional roads, make it last 2x or more longer and generate power it starts to seem like a worthwhile investment. You'll never get there without test segments to try ideas and see what can be made to work.

    We spend a ton on roadways now using basically the same construction materials and techniques we've used for 75 years and we're bitching that solar roads won't last. Well no shit, fucking cars would't last long either if we built them like we did in 1950, either, yet we say we can't build a better road? Maybe we're not trying.

    • No, it isn't. Because a back-of-the-envelope calculation will tell you that it's orders of magnitude less bang for the buck than those same solar panels installed on the side of the road or on a gantry over the top of the road. This same reasoning can be used to come to the conclusion that you shouldn't try to build a skyscraper out of lego bricks or a submarine out of wax paper.
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        The larger point is that the solar generation capacity isn't the main challenge with solar roads. Of course we can build solar capacity *now* in better ways with more traditional mounting methods.

        The real challenge with solar roads is coming up with an installation method that is durable and inexpensive enough to install as a roadway. Once we do that, we've invented not just roadway solar panels but also come up with a way to lay down roadways that are better and more durable than roadways now.

        Right now n

    • So is this a technology not even worth trying to develop with small scale pilots?

      Correct. It's a stupid idea at this point. There are zillions of better places to install solar panels now. When we run out of those, then we can start thinking about things like this. Perhaps by then materials science will advance to the point that it is cost-effective. It's not an inherently bad idea, it's just inherently a bad idea today.

    • You can improve the technology with prototypes, you don't need to cover huge sections of road.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      We spend a ton on roadways now using basically the same construction materials and techniques we've used for 75 years and we're bitching that solar roads won't last. Well no shit, fucking cars would't last long either if we built them like we did in 1950, either, yet we say we can't build a better road? Maybe we're not trying.

      If it costs 5x to make something that lasts 2x as long we could, but it wouldn't make sense. This is literally where the rubber meets the road, the rubber is going to wear out. The road is going to wear out. Re-paving is just standard maintenance like switching tires every so many miles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2016 @12:53AM (#53541909)

    $5.2 million for 30k square feet is roughly $175/sq. ft.

    A quick search shows that PV solar panels generate roughly 8-10 watts/sq. ft.

    Since the average price of electricity in the US is roughly $0.12/kwh, $175 would buy about 1500 kwh (1.5Mwh) of electricity.

    So a sq. ft. of PV solar panel would generate $175 of electricity in about...
        150000 hours -- or 6250 days -- or roughly 17 years (assuming you have optimal conditions 24/7/365).

    • Yeeeaaahh, you don't have optimal conditions 24/7/365. Solar panels produce, on average, something like 20% of their rated capacity. So turn that 17 years into 85 years, and that's before you account for the fact that the supplier's wholesale price for electricity is less than half of the $0.12/kWh that the end customer pays.
    • Now factor in the base cost of the road, since these panels don't just generate electricity. Depending on the level of works done, this could be anything from $500k/km to $5M/km (probably on the lower side of that, from the photographs). Accounting for that, payoff time on the additional expense is a little better, maybe 13-14 years.

      But the real question is, how much less would they cost if you scaled up manufacturing of the panels, and created specialised equipment to streamline installation? That'd certai

  • But this is truly a breakthrough, in solar journalism at least. This may be the first time in decades I've seen a story about some new solar power idea that isn't drowning in gosh-wow enthusiasm . This is so impressive, I was toying with the idea of jumping in and defending the possibility that this technology might someday be perfected... The trouble is, I think I'd rather have a roof over the roadway where it can act as a sunshade (in CA) and keep the snow off (in places you probably don't want to rel
  • $5mil = enough electricity to power the street lights ... for about 100 years

    • Yes but you still have to build the road, and I'm pretty sure that it represents a big chunk of the total bill.
  • They were scammed, and scammed good.
  • Sounds like someone got a good bucket sized serving from the gravy trough here to have this happen. The outcome is most likely going to be poor on efficiency and higher than "anticipated" on maintenance ( which will be no shock ), and the next bucket sized serving of gravy will be served up to "research" the issues further and facilitate someone's lifestyle.

  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Friday December 23, 2016 @07:51AM (#53542773) Journal

    Nuclear powered roads is the solution that NIMBYs won't let us have.

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