Dr. Roy Spencer and I have been watching this project with amusement combined with incredulity. Somehow, this mom and pop operation have raised over $1.9 million on Indiegogo from gullible people who don’t have the skillset or decide to ignore basic physics, economics, and common sense in favor of future pipe dreams of green energy. This video that follows shows why their claim doesn’t make any sense, none at all. The best part? The impetus was for this idea was global warming. Here is what they say about the birth of “solar roadways”:
Years ago, when the phrase “Global Warming” began gaining popularity, we started batting around the idea of replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels that could be driven upon. We thought of the “black box” on airplanes: We didn’t know what material that black box was made of, but it seemed to be able to protect sensitive electronics from the worst of airline crashes.
Suppose we made a section of road out of this material and housed solar cells to collect energy, which could pay for the cost of the panel, thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time. What if we added LEDs to “paint” the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving? What if we added a heating element in the surface (like the defrosting wire in the rear window of our cars) to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? The ideas and possibilities just continued to roll in and the Solar Roadway project was born.
Got that? Airplane black boxes to road surfaces logic, check. LED’s to guide cars down the road at night with optional Windex tankers ahead of you, check. Heating elements to melt snow and ice, but no cognizant idea of just how much power it takes to melt snow and ice versus the amount of power a dirty scuffed up solar cell will produce, check.
The most ridiculous parts of this idea don’t just include the unsuitability of solar tiles as a road surface (high friction surfaces and transparent optical surfaces are total opposites) and the ginormous production and maintenance costs involved, but also include the ill-considered support infrastructure requirements, the poor visibility of LED road lighting itself, and the short lifespan of materials involved.
All in all, it’s a colossal green tech train wreck, but these clowns may be laughing all the way to the bank, or they may be shysters, either way, there’s a sucker born every minute.
From the YouTube video description:
Well it basically proposes the union of 3 or 4 technologies. LED lights, solar panels, and glass roads.
Glass really isn’t a feasible material to make roads out of.
1) its too expensive. Just coating the US road system with roads would cost many times the federal budget.
2) Its too soft. Even with a textured surface for traction, it will wear away too quickly. Dirt on roads is basically small rocks, which are generally much harder than glass. Imagine taking a handful of dirt and rubbing it a window. Now imagine doing that with the wheels of a 20 ton tractor/trailer.
3) I have doubts about the physical properties of the glass to take the load and mechanical heat stress required of a road making material.
Solar panels under the road is a bad idea from the start. If they are under the roads, they are hard to maintain. They will have reduced light from parked cars etc. They are fragile. Not really congenial to the conditions you are likely to get on a road. In many ways building a shed over the road, or just having solar panels by the side of the road is a far better idea. However the power transport really isnt practical. One of the most efficient ways to transport electricity around is as high voltage AC. However to build those lines would probably double the cost of any construction. To bury the cables is even more expensive.
LEDs for variable road marking have been partially implemented. They are usually only cost effective in dynamic traffic management systems. For most roads its utterly pointless as the road markings almost never need to be altered. These LED are usually not easy to see (especially in full daylight when the solar panels are meant to be generating power).
However solar powered roadways has generated well over a million dollars for Julie and Scott Brusaw (a therapist and an engineer).
I’m still on the fence as to if they are just delusional dreamers or (now millionaire) con artists. A lot of this looks like just direct ‘what if’ daydreaming, but then you get the part of the promotional video where they are shoveling ground up coloured glass into a wheelbarrow, while narrating that they use as many recycled materials as possible in this project. It’s very difficult to not see that as a direct lie. They must know full well that they did not use any of that material in the construction of their glass tiles.
Watch the video:
And here is the original video pitch that earned these green dreamers 1.9 million dollars for an idea that was dead out of the gate.