Solar roads, a new way to capture clean energy
November 10, 2020
The presence of new ways to capture solar energy is becoming more unusual but, at the same time, more familiar. Until recently we were talking about photovoltaic roofs with the look of lifelong shingles, a real breakthrough for sustainable energy, integrating it into our conventional architecture. In view of these advances, new ways of generating renewable energy are being implemented, now it is the turn of the ground, there are already nations with solar roads and they are in full capacity.
What are solar roads?
Photovoltaic flooring is a form of pavement that generates electricity by collecting solar energy, converting it into photovoltaic energy. Parking lots, pedestrian paths, roads, streets and roads are all candidate places where this material could be used. These handles are designed hexagonally, composed mainly of recycled glass, silicone rubber and high-strength cement, to withstand the passage of trucks and provide better grip on vehicles.
One kilometer of solar road can supply energy for 5 thousand people and 20 square meters of these steeds can supply energy for a house.
One of the first experiences arose in the Netherlands where they are implementing a clean energy system with a model of roads paved with glass-coated solar panels. The results indicated that 70 meters of bike path are generating 3000 kWh, enough energy to power a small house for a year.
How would the system work?
Basically, what it’s all about is creating a new photovoltaic solar panel that, to be effective, has to be sturdy but also easily installable. Thus, this approach consists of glass tiles of 8×8 centimeters, with integrated solar cells and incorporated into a network. These small pieces, about 5 millimeters wide, are placed on the surface you want to cover. The sections are usually short as they are still in the form of a test and it is possible to circulate along these roads on top of the panels or photovoltaic cells by which they are composed.
Solar roads on the planet
Solar roads, currently in the pilot project phase and installed in several countries, including France, China, the United States, Japan, and the Netherlands, where the first cycle road built with solar panels was developed. New projects are continuously added and developed, so if you’re interested, have a look.
Test results performed
In December 2016, France inaugurated in Normandy the first stretch of road built with pavement formed by photovoltaic plates to generate electricity from sunlight to produce 790 KWh per day.
In 2014, Solar Roadways announced that it would develop the first stage of a solar highway in the United States, specifically in Missouri. In 2016 and after nearly six million dollars of investment, staging was a failure. It was one of the first tests of this project in the world and was a failure with more than 83 percent of the broken panels.
In Holland, Solar Road was more successful. They installed glass-coated solar panels on 70 meters of asphalt. The result was to generate 3,000 kWh of clean energy in six months. This year, they has re-launched a proposal; it is Solar Highways, which uses a 400 meter soundproofing screen with the integration of solar biphacal modules.
Perhaps the best known case is china, which built during 2017 a solar road capable of powering 800 homes. In 2018 they opened the stretch to traffic and the problems began, this time by vandalism. Several blocks disappeared. While knowing the country’s emissions objective, they are likely to be working on expanding the route.
The government of Monaco carry out a project called the “energy road of tomorrow”, this construction generates an instant power: 45kW, daily production: 3.44 kWh, a production accumulated since the start-up of 37.5 kW.
Skepticism and criticism
Since the idea of Solar Roadways for the construction of solar-powered LED roads was made public, a great deal of controversy has been created as to whether it is an idea that can be carried out or not. The biggest unknown is safety. Driving on a textured glass surface is completely different than on asphalt, which has specifically designed to increase traction. The durability of the panels has also not been fully demonstrated, with the constant transit of vehicles of various tonnage. The third limitation concerns the availability of materials and equipment for placing large circuits under solar glass, for large highway lengths.
Advantages of solar roads
- Save a lot of land: generate electricity on roads and streets, rather than fields and deserts filled with solar panels.
- Because roads cross and surround cities, electricity could be used virtually next to where it is generated. That means virtually no power will be lost in the transmission, as can happen with projects in remote locations.
- Roads must be rekindling every few years at a great cost. So installing durable solar panels could reduce the price of maintenance.
- Solar roads may also change the driving experience.
- Panels on a road would likely have to be replaced less frequently than asphalt.
- A solar path can produce about $15 a year in electricity for every square meter of solar panels. Therefore, you could pay for yourself.
Disadvantages of solar roads
- The denser the circulation, the less efficient the process is: they stay flat and are intermittently covered by vehicles.
- Solar panels on a road produce only half the power that roofs tilt towards the sun.
- Solar roads should be reserved for sunny roads, but with few people (traffic).
- The available flat photovoltaic panels are far from ideal for the best performance all year round.
- They are more expensive than asphalt. It costs about $120 per square meter, or about $11 per square foot.
- There is no certainty whether the panels could withstand the impact of millions of tires each year for more than a decade.
- They could be stolen.
This design translates into something that is key: roads would not need major changes to become solar, but only this system would have to be deployed on them, as if it were placing a carpet on them. They ensure this with a very clear idea in mind: that these systems allow electric vehicles to be recharged in motion by induction loops.