The Road To Hell Is Paved With Solar Panels – "Solar Road" fails miserably

$4.5 million project generates just $36.86 worth of electricity so far

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Back in 2014, Anthony Watts pointed out an upcoming project called “Solar Roadways”. This was a project to put solar panels on roads. Hey, what’s not to like? Plenty of roadway space, put it to double use, we get free energy from the sun, right?

Well, as Anthony presciently commented at the time …

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.

Since a few years have now passed, I thought I might update the information about the project. The first rule of investigations, of course, is “follow the Benjamins”. This saying comes from the fact that Benjamin Franklin appears on the US $100 bill … so here is the funding of the Solar Roadways project.

$100,000 – 2009 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) for a “Phase I feasibility study”.

$750,000 – 2011 SBIR grant from the DOT for Phase II to develop and build a solar parking lot. They put panels on a 12 x 36 foot (4 x 11 m) parking lot.

$2,200,000 – 2014 Indiegogo funding from the easily deceived.

$750,000 – 2015 SBIR contract for further research

$750,000 – 2016 SBIR contract for yet more research.

So to date, they have received $2,350,000 from you and I, the US taxpayers, and another $2,200,000 from mining that seemingly endless source called “a fool and his money are soon parted”, for a total of $4,550,000.

And what did we get for this four and a half megabucks of lavish private and taxpayer funding?

First, the solar parking lot. Here are the founders of the company with their monumental achievement …

solar parking lot.png

Wow … that’s plenty impressive … dare I ask what happens to the electricity output when cars are parked on the parking lot, or is that just too practical a question?

Next, the solar test roadway, which is in Sandpoint, Idaho. Twenty-five of the first thirty test panels died within the first few weeks. They were replaced by panels that delaminated …

solar roadway delamination.png

So the delaminated panels were replaced again. But to be fair, who would have ever guessed that driving loaded semi-trucks over solar panels might do some damage? … well, to be fair, you and I could have guessed that, but clearly they couldn’t. I suppose that’s why they needed so much funding.

In any case, the system has now been in operation with thirty panels for a couple of years. Being an inquisitive and curious sort of fellow, I went to their website to see how well they are doing … I found the following:

solar roadways energy production.png

On its best day, Tuesday, May 9, 2017, as shown in the graphic above the thirty panels generated a total of 1.3 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity … and on the most recent day, yesterday, it generated 0.25 kWh of electricity. On average, since it was started the production has averaged about 0.65 kWh per day.

The system went into operation on March 22, 2017. It has been in operation for 378 days, during which time it has generated about 246 kWhrs of electricity.

Now, my home electricity is expensive due to the asinine “renewable mandates” put into place by Governor Moonbeam here in Californistan. I pay $0.15 per kilowatt-hour, which is about double the cost charged in neighboring states where they haven’t drunk the green Koolaid.

And at that rate, the total of 246 kWhrs of electricity that cost $4,450,000 is worth about $36.86.

Gotta love these green pipe-dreams … enjoy the sunshine, dear friends, it will do more good smiling down on you than it would by shining on solar panels on the roadways.

As always, my best regards to everyone,

w.

My perennial request: When you comment, QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU ARE DISCUSSING. I get grumpy when people make unsubstantiated claims that someone is foolish for saying something somewhere sometime …

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187 thoughts on “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Solar Panels – "Solar Road" fails miserably

  1. Millenials loved the concept of solar roadways and they have zero interest in finding out the outcomes, or performance, or cost. That is how things work in la la land with grant money to run it.

    • I haven’t bothered to go see it but I thought that movie La La Land was about solar roadways…….

      • That name is so friggin stupid , I’m not even prepared to know what the film is about. Probably millennials on Prozac or something.

      • The opening number was pretty good, but neither Emma Stone nor Ryan Gosling are very good singers or dancers, so the rest of the movie stunk.

      • Quinn v. Quinn on La La Land. It’s true the neither Ryan Gosling nor Emma Stone is a particularly great singer or dancer. I almost walked out in the first 15 minutes because I was measuring it against the likes of Astaire and Rogers. But I was with the fam and decided to lay back and think of England, as the saying goes. By the end, the story had swept me away, and I loved it. The music, the singing, the dancing and the story are all mutually reinforcing, and by the end you see how beautifully they are all woven together.

      • Now that would be worth paying to see traffic at sunrise and sunset with the road at its steepest, or maybe an East/West road with all the panels forming a series of ramps.
        James Bull

    • Anyone with the slightest experience in engineering or PV solar panels would see that this was a non starter before even sketching it out on the back of an envelope.
      Solar panels lose a lot of their efficiency when they are dirty or the front surface is damaged, so putting them in a situation where they will get both very dirty and very scratched is a non starter.
      Road surfaces need to be rough to provide grip during breaking and cornering and to provide a small scale paths for water to prevent aquaplaning. Again, totally contrary to what is provided by solar panels.

      Anyone who can not see that is either doing too many drugs or is just out to milk the available grants in the most cynical way, knowing that it is a non starter but they can make a quick killing.

      • LOL! You can’t explain that kind of thing to the faithful. When this idea first came out I was over at my parents telling my sisters two kids why it wouldn’t work. That niece and nephew reflect their mothers silly and naïve social political views.
        It doesn’t take engineering experience to know it’s a non starter. This truck driver has seen what a 50,000 lb. coil of steel that gets loose from a flatbed does to a road surface. What vehicle fires and chemical spills do to the surface. Has seen the sparks fly from plows and chains being dragged along. Sees the black streaks and grooves worn into pavement by heavy truck traffic. Feels the shock wave of vibration that passes through the road bed and ground when a heavy truck goes by at highway speeds. Understands why expansion joints are installed in certain places.
        Then there is the question of traction. Traction requires texture and textured glass will both reflect and refract light and hold the rubber and dirt in the recesses.
        I might as well have been talking to a wall trying to explain this too those faithful though.
        So thank you Willis for keeping up on this farce and reporting on it’s lack of progress and wastefulness. I will make sure to ask my silly niece and nephew at the next family get together: “So how’s that solar road project coming along?”

      • there was a really excitable video called ” solar freakin’ roadways’ a few years ago 2014 (see youtube link below) …it was so laughable me and friends were asking…”are they really trying to do this”? they play no snow, warns you if a (huge) bolder fell on the road ahead, or if a moose stepped..it got crazier, and OF COURSE the wonder of SAVING and making back $$$…insanely funny. enjoy watching- 6 minutes– has had 22 MILLION+ view… by
        Scott Brusaw Published on May 18, 2014 (video shows SAME exact small parking area that $4.4 M was spent on, and same two people shoveling recycled glass at one point… cause it’s ego grooves of course!

    • They love the concept of solar roadways so much because they plan to tax the shit out of motorists to pay for them; thereby making driving unaffordably expensive.

      • …and the solar roadways won’t receive any damage because nobody can afford to drive on them!
        Problem solved….now its just the governments problem on how to pay off the bonds issued to build the roads nobody is using and hence no tax revenue.

      • Wait until they start getting sued for the amount of accidents caused by low friction surface and increased tendency to cause aquaplaning accidents.
        This surface should never have been approved as a road surface outside of closed research establishments. Using the public as crash test dummies is NOT allowed.

  2. There are at least two solar roads in western Europe for a total cost in excess of 4.000.000€. Not reports have been filed that i can find but the greenpiss supporters plough on spending our money.

    • There is one such road in the north of France. One thing I can guarantee is that the French will NOT make any data available about the energy actually produced.
      We have 3MW solar farm up the road from here and I went up there when it was just being finalised and got to talk to one of the engineers. He was very helpful and let walk around and take a few photos. I asked if there was a web site where I could watch the production. He said no, and neither would there be one. All data is a “commercial secret” of the company running it.
      Despite being billed as having 4MW installed capacity , they only have 3MW of inverters linking it to the grid. Due to the way the panels are orientated they will NEVER be perpendicular to the sun and this was clearly reflected in buying the inverter equipment. So the 4MW provided to the press is a lie , it is a 3MW installation.

      • If the inverters are rated at 3MW, it means they aren’t expecting to actually produce more than about 1.5 to 2.0MW at any given time.
        You never run electronics at it’s maximum rating for long. They burn out.

      • I am a solar design engineer. The “4 MW” is the DC rating of the PV modules (which is always quoted by the solar developer), while the 3 MW is the rating of the inverters that connect to the grid (which is always quoted by the utility). Both are technically true — no one is lying. It is standard practice for the DC to be oversized by a factor of up to 1.5 — some of the energy is inevitably “clipped” during peak periods, but on an annual basis this type of system is more cost effective than one with a lower DC – AC ratio.
        As for the inverters running at full power, modern inverters are designed with sufficient margins so that they can run at full power continuously. In a system like this on a clear day, the inverters will probably be running maxed out for four hours around solar noon. The morning and afternoons are at lower power simply because there is less sun. Regarding panel orientation, steeper panel tilt (which might get to “perpendicular” ) requires more row spacing because of inter-row shading, which means less equipment on the same size field. So all of these are parameters that a solar engineer looks at carefully when designing a system.
        Finally — monitoring. Privately owned systems would typically report performance to the utility that is purchasing the power — no need for them to be public. There are many “community solar” arrays that publish real time output to their members, and some “research arrays” that publish real-time data on the web. You just have to look for them.
        As for the original topic — Solar Freakin’ Roadways — this was a goofy idea from the beginning, but I think the inventors were sincere, just hopelessly naive. But it is interesting to see how an idea like this can capture peoples’ minds (from the questions I got, it was definitely not just millennials). I have to admit, I almost put in $40 so I could get a SFR hat …

      • Mais si l’on ne prend en considération que les dalles qui ont fonctionné en continu (certaines ont par exemple disjoncté lors d’un orage), l’objectif est atteint à plus de 85%, selon Wattway.
        If we only consider the modules that worked all the time…
        If we only consider those planes that could land safely, no plane accident happened in the world last year?

    • They tried that on the M6 and M1 in the UK. The panels all crumbled over time and had to be expensively dug out and replaced with tarmac. They didn’t generate electricity either being just concrete!

      • Yes, A12 east coast road into London is concrete and it awful to drive on. Very noisy and bumpy.

    • Tuesday night this truck driver pulled his rig into the parking area just off I-90 W about 14 miles west of Buffalo, NY. The Angola Service Area was full so I used that small rest area a few miles west of the service area. As with any other time I park to take my 10 hour break in a place just off the interstate I laid there in the sleeper feeling the shock waves as heavy trucks went by on I-90 at highway speeds. One can feel those waves despite the fact that the cab of the truck is mounted on rubber air bladders. Really kind of relaxing just as the winds in the early morning hours which gently rocked my truck were.
      It was a good thing to get a nice sleep because Wednesday was a bear up there. I had to go to Rochester first then come back to Tonawanda then get back to the terminal in Anderson, IN. Wednesday night. Winds were gusting over 60 mph. Frequent snow squalls. Ice was piled up along the east shore of the lake because of the heavy west winds. The snow didn’t stick but when you hit one of those squalls the visibility got very poor. Many 1,000s up there lost power. Lots of trees down. Two trucks blown over. Those kind of conditions make truck driving damned hard work. I arrived back at the terminal in Anderson having drove 668 mi in 11 hours and 1 minute of driving time that day. And that despite hitting the Cleveland afternoon rush hour at it’s height. Kind of proud of that. Wouldn’t have been possible if the predominate wind direction had been out of the north. But thankfully my primary directions of travel were East and then West so I was dealing with mostly headwinds or tail winds. If the wind had been out of the north or south I would have probably had to just park it and wait it out because the 22,000 lbs. of freight I had in the trailer wouldn’t have been enough to allow for safe driving in those winds.

    • – As was pointed-out in detail at the time these guys became press-hogs, if they really want to put solar panels on roadways, they’d be far, far smarter to mount them on stilts ABOVE the roadway – from a safety standpoint alone, glass is not a very tractive surface and vehicles leave dirt behind, which would quickly degrade solar returns particularly in winter. Likewise, solar panels above the roadway could be pointed more-or-less at the sun, whereas roadways are pretty flat so most of the sunlight would reflect off them. The whole scene falls-under the “Are we really THAT desperate?” headline.

      • I don’t know but apparently the Greenies are That Disparate when compared to actual intelligent humans

      • This is close to my idea. I love shady parking spaces. You create covered parking in a shopping area, such as a mall or strip shopping center. Solar panels on nearly 100% of the cover. Run the electricity straight to the mall to power a set handful of items: lights, security cameras, Muzac.
        Shoppers appreciate the shade, and so prefer your shopping strip versus the one down the street.
        When the shoppers are done, and get in their car, they do not have to run the A/C anywhere near as much, since their car has not experienced the [genuine] green house effect. This is an incidental benefit that can legitimately be added in to the cost-benefit calculation, unlike most of the side benefits people claim in these scenarios.
        If the panels fail, you are really not in too bad a shape – the panels would not be the main power source for the entire complex, and so you just draw a bit more from the main power.
        It is easy to get to the panels and wires to check on them.
        This is a situation where you might actually hit your return-on-investment mark. If it does’t work, you allow the panels to go into failure one by one, and you still have covered parking. Not too shabby.

      • Yep, car park solar panel shades, as seen at airports such as Perpignan in France. In 20 years time the panels will only be sunshades of course….

    • I’ve often wondered why solar enthusiasts are so obsessed with generating electricity, when the process is at best 15% efficient. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to circulate water (or some other fluid) through black tubes, which could be heated by sunlight on sunny days, then stored and used as a heat source at night or on cloudy days? The process could be made more efficient by using tubes which are black on the side facing the sun, and transparent below, with a reflective surface below the tubes.

      • Way too 19th century, dude.
        No marketing angle, no NEW TECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGH headline for the spruikers and media morons.
        Common sense just don’t sell in the cafes and uber eateries of either Inner Hipsterville or Outer Nerdistan.

      • Thermal solar collectors on rooftops for domestic hot water production are ubiquitous in spain. Typically with a 200 to 300L tank, convection driven (the tank is usually at the top). No electrics. Very simple and reliable technology. Only moving part is the water. Works even on cloudy days. I estimate the collecting surface to be approx 3m^2. An owner tells me he needs supplementary heating just a few days a year. I don’t understand why that’s not much more widespread.

  3. The sad thing about this example is that it’s only one of the more egregious examples of stupidity. This is like a local shop compared to Walmart – the small shop may waste more on a percentage basis, but the big solar and wind companies make it up in volume

    • Greg61,
      Perhaps these kinds of antics speak to the intellectual capacity of those advocating them, and why they are supporters of the Green religion. More green Kool Aid, please.

      • They got the money, didn’t they? The problem is with the people giving out the money, and the laws that (allow/require) them to find stupidly uneconomic ideas.

  4. Wouldn’t it make more sense to place the solar panels on a roof OVER the parking lot. That way, you are not shading, driving over, or crushing the panels .and. you are providing shade for the cars.
    What a bunch of maroons.

    • Also good for hail protection.
      Of course hail will not be good for the solar cells, but what the heck, don’t broken windows improve the economy?

      • If you are at mid UK latitudes, and you define the energy you’d get from tracking the Sun with your solar panel as100% optimal efficiency, then a fixed installation titled at the correct angle for your latitude is about 60-70% efficient and a solar panel lying down flat will be about 30-35% efficient. Ie you can get about twice as much energy out of a solar cell if you tilt it upwards at the Sun rather than lying it down flat and tracking the Sun throughout the day could get another 50% (ish)
        [NB numbers are a bit rough depends on latitude at the equator the optimum angle to tilt is flat horizontal for a fixed installation, further from the equator you want a steeper angle and you can also do circa 15% better with a fixed installation by adjusting the angle twice a year]

      • Having designed a built a couple of solar tracker systems , I can confirm Anna’s estimations. Nice succinct , bottom line summary.

    • I believe a college in South Los Angeles did that. AFAIK, the solar panels are just sitting there, with no electricity being generated.

  5. One of the more beneficial attributes of sunlight is the generation of vitamin D in the human body.
    Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a British GP blogs about the huge benefit to the human heart naturally produced vitamin D has in combating heart disease. He is the medical equivalent of CAGW sceptics.
    I suspect the money wasted on these childish project could be channelled to him to provide some worthwhile results from the use of sunlight.
    Mind you, he would probably say, as he does now, get out and sunbathe, just don’t torch yourself.
    That’s got to be worth………Hmmmmmm, let me think………£5 worth of common sense.

    • Cases of rickets and other conditions caused by vitamin-D deficiency are on the rise again, in part because well-intentioned parents took the “too much sun = skin cancer” meme in the 90s to heart and slathered their kids in excessively strong sunblock.

    • Vitamin D deficiency has also been implicated in numerous other immune system modulated diseases, like Multiple Sclerosis, in recent years. It’s well-known that there is higher incidence of MS in individuals born & raised in high latitudes and that living nearer the equator, while young, is protective. Scotland & Canada have amongst the highest incidence of MS in the world.

      • Richard molineux April 5, 2018 at 5:08 pm
        s-t, almost every single case of MS can be traced back to the individual drinking milk as a child.

        Yeah, but who doesn´t drink milk as a child?
        OTOH, not everybody who drank milk as a child develops MS, so…

    • The subject of this post is solar panels embedded in roadways. Nice try at switching the subject.
      IIRC, one reason Mr. Watts installed solar panels on his roof is to protect himself from the ever-increasing rates of the blinded-by-greenies electric company.

  6. Thunderf00t has done a series of videos on the problems with Solar Roadways that are well worth a watch – latest one here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIuiZh5t9_Y . He’s also looked into other projects proposing to use plastics for roads etc… which also have fundamental issues.
    When I first heard of it, I found it really hard to believe anyone is even considering building a road out of solar panels. For starters, the glass will surely scratch horribly when it has 1 ton cars rubbing stones across it. Asphalt is amazing material for roads very difficult to beat – cheap, practically 100% recyclable, easy to lay smoothly, no glare, durable, easy to repair etc…

    • Anna,
      No glare? Since when? And it only gets worse when it is wet, especially when driving into the sun.

      • Fair point, I was thinking about asphalt in comparison to glass; I work opposite a glass skyscraper and get dazzled by the reflection on every slightly sunny day.

    • Not to mention the decades of research that have gone into improving long term skid resistance. Many aggregates are polished by traffic making the road slippery and their use is controlled by tight specifications. I very much doubt these panels would match the performance of aggregates, and safety would therefore be affected. Expect lawsuits if they ever get used on roads.

    • While Thunderf00t has put out some good videos covering various subjects, unfortunately he has drank the AGW Kool-Aid. It’s really amazing how otherwise smart and inquisitive individuals just lose the plot when it comes to global warming/climate change.

    • “Asphalt is amazing material for roads very difficult to beat – cheap, practically 100% recyclable, easy to lay smoothly, no glare, durable, easy to repair etc.”
      Asphalt doesn’t do all that well in cold climates. Unless one spends a LOT of time and money on the substrate it grows frost heaves that degrade into huge potholes that have to be “fixed” with patches that develop frost heaves that, in turn, degrade into huge potholes. Commonwealth Avenue in Boston used to be the canonical example of “More pothole than pavement”. I assume that it still is. A few decades ago a VW fell into a pothole in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (Interstate95) over the Potomac in Washington DC anded up with all four wheels spinning in the air.
      Not that glass would be any better. Plus which a glass surface with sufficient texture to allow tires to grip in Winter weather probably wouldn’t be a very good light transmitter.
      Although city dwellers find it hard to believe. Most rural roads in Vermont are unpaved out of practicality rather than miserliness. Dirt works better than pavement on roads with light traffic for about 355 days a year. And it’s much easier to maintain. The remaining ten days — “mud season” are a different story of course. Mostly, we try not to travel the back roads during mud season..

      • Don K,
        You forgot to mention that those rural roads are essentially ‘paved’ with packed snow in the Wintertime.

    • And much like the ethane used to make plastic shopping bags, there’s not much other use for it.

  7. The idea of solar parking lots always grabbed my fancy – I presume these morons would know to panel only the parts of the parking lot where, you know, cars didn’t park and block the sun. But I wonder – how infinite is their ignorance? I’ve heard of notions of laying solar panels on Interstate highways but could never understand why they didn’t just install the panels on the median strips
    and any unused land bordering the highway. Cars travelling over the highway, you know, block the sun from reaching the road surface. . The whole idea seemed impractical and stupid. Now some
    charging stations are errecting roofs over the area and putting their solar panels up there, which makes sense.

    • “…but could never understand why they didn’t just install the panels on the median strips
      and any unused land bordering the highway.”
      I thought of that dealing with food once. In Texas the entirety of Interstate 10 (800 miles) has a median area of about 10,000 acres and could yield 1 1/2 million bushels of corn worth $5 million. Of course, planting, cultivating, spraying and irrigating it each year would cost that much or more, especially if done by the government…

    • The columns supporting the panels could present a safety hazard for any car that leaves the roadway at high speed.

      • It took them decades to figure out how to make break away sign and light poles that didn’t kill drivers that crashed into them.
        Beyond that, if the drivers knocked down a bunch of panels that then fell on their car, during the middle of the day, the panels would still be generating high voltage.
        I can just see the fire dept on arriving at the accident scene, telling the driver to stay in his car until the sun goes down.

      • In one town in this area, they grew tired of replacing the breakaway stop signs at the main intersection, so they poured big concrete columns around them. 😐

  8. Why do so many people want expensive, unreliable energy sources rather than cheap and reliable, with the added benefit of more plant food in the air?

  9. And at that rate, the total of 246 kWhrs of electricity that cost $4,450,000 is worth about $36.86.

    … but it is not nearly that valuable, as the grid needs other types of power plants to back up.
    Solar is so cheap it’s nearly worthless, but very expensive in terms of taxpayer’s money.

    • That’s $38.36 at retail electricity rates in expensive states. In Michigan that’s about $6.70 cents wholesale, and actually zero $ today, since we just received 8 more inches of snow

  10. About 14 years ago i moved to Michigan to work on the hydraulic hybrid UPS truck, another BIG waste of money, the fed put millions in to it and it had no commercial viability, par for the course.

    • John Bell- I have always thought a hydraulic powered vehicle was an interesting concept. Why did it fail? Was the pressure required for the high pressure storage too high? Was the low pressure receiver volume too large? Controls too complex? what?

      • Hydraulic motors are not very efficient. You would be better kff with a diesel-electric setup, which js why trains (and ships) use that system.

      • The biggest advantage of an hydraulic accumulator is that it can be charged with energy at a very high rate – much much better than a battery. The down side is that they are bulky and heavy. On an energy stored per unit mass, or unit volume, they are much much worse than a battery. The result is, for any driving cycle other than maybe a garbage truck, they are simply not feasible.

  11. The only dumber place I can think of to put a solar panel is inside a tunnel. I’ve seen parking lots that have covers over the parking spots in order to keep the cars cool.
    As for highways, seriously? Where do you put the transmission lines?

    • The end concept is that roads made of panels will charge/power the cars driving on them in real-time…lol

    • These are big in the desert, Coachella Valley, CA (Palm Springs Area). Shaded parking areas are already common. So addition of solar panels made some sense. However, it is pretty dusty in the desert.

  12. At $0.15/kWh you have Moonbeam’s best price for electricity. I live 20min from Sacramento and his house – I pay $0.36/kWh peak, $0.30 off-peak in the summer. Annual blended cost is $0.29/kWh. Almost European rates! Germany here we come!!!! From greatness to power poverty for a dream without reality.

  13. What would be really fun would be to take those delaminated panels, cover them with snow, toss ice on top, and then run some more trucks over them. Oh yeah, and connect them to the local electric grid. Then maybe just for fun park a Tesla on top and set it on fire to simulate a disaster scenario.

    • Dang it, I meant cover it with snow and toss SALT on top, then drive over it with trucks. Yep, just toss a little salt water inside the protective covering while power is being generated and see what happens.

  14. Whoo Boy! Those are going to work great on I41 in Wisconsin!
    After heavy snow falls, icing, salting to melt ice, snow plow scraping, sanding for traction, heavy equipment loads, studded snow tires, freeze/thaw cycles, thermal expansion/contraction from -34F winter to +104F summer temps, and a smattering of ammoniated compounds from cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, and wild bird droppings, those panels will be performing at 110%!

  15. Willis
    Only $.15 per kilowatt hour in California? This is less than Massachusetts and comparable to many states. Are you sure you haven’t listed only part of the bill?

      • It looks like California is a state onto itself in the west — not that it wasn’t obvious in other ways as well!

    • We live in Washington State east of the Cascades. A Public Utility District (PUD) buys power and distributes it locally. Our residential rate is of two parts;
      Residential rate, monthly for last year – – – as of end of March, this year are the 2nd numbers:
      Facilities Charge . . . . . $19.00 . . . . . . . . . . . $21.25
      Energy Charge … . . . . $0.0897/kWh . . . . . $0.0908
      The facilities charge is paid to support the local grid, so even a house with lots of solar but on the grid will pay the $21.25/month.
      There are other service types, but these are the small home rates.

  16. I think you’re looking at it the wrong way around. Sure, it’s a boondoggle, but that should have been obvious. The first clue is Sandpoint, Idaho, one of the most gorgeous places on the planet and populated with eccentric characters and free-thinkers who like living off the grid, much like yourself, Willis. Just ask Patrick McManus, the humorist who gave us memorable characters like the crotchety woodsman, Rancid Crabtree, drawn from McManus’ childhood experiences growing up in Sandpoint. This is a place where Sasquatch is as real as aliens crashing at Area 51. Sandpoint only gets an average of 175 sunny days per year, not exactly an ideal testbed for solar technology, which any pencil pusher in Washington, DC should have been able to figure out.
    I don’t know if the guy in the picture is responsible for this Golden Fleece (hat tip to the late Sen. William Proxmire), but I think he should be lauded for his creativity in supporting himself with rather lavish funding from the government and the generous donations of likeminded dreamers. Of course it’s crazy, but you’ve got to admire the guy behind the curtains.

  17. Can we derive some metrics to work with? For example, how much square area of solar panel would be required to power the transport of 1 pound 1 foot (or the metric of your choice)? I know there will need to be several (many) assumptions to get started, like the energy output of solar panel by area. But, at least we could throw some math at it. If it takes X surface area of solar panel to power a passenger vehicle Y distance, we could recognize viability pretty quickly. How well would those metrics scale to moving a freight train?
    There are other major hurdles with this application, like embedding ‘solar panels’ in asphalt, and night-time. But having a roadway extract energy from the sun is a noble goal (just maybe not over 4 million worth of noble).

    • Isolation is about 1 KWm^-2 at noon at the equator in clear weather. That’s 1.34 horsepower. It essentially falls as the cosine of the latitude and cosine of the time until noon, worse in winter, better in summer. Solar panels are roughly 20% efficient. That’s all you need to know to solve these solar energy problems Fermi-style. I love Fermi problems.
      200 watts per square meter, under perfect conditions, falling to 140 W at the latitude of New York in the fall and spring, and falling again to 98 W by three in the afternoon there. Call that 100 W per square meter in a typical application. One sixth of a horsepower per square meter.
      A Ford Escort, not the noblest of transportation options, is a hundred-horsepower car. Collect sunshine on a square meter (again, New York at three o’clock near an equinox) for six hundred hours, and it will run for one hour (assuming no battery loss, but also assuming max consumption for the hour). Collect the sun on six hundred square meters for an hour, and it will run for an hour.
      Wikipedia tells me a Ford escort is 4.44 x 1.70 m in length and width, about 7.5 square meters. It needs 40 parking spaces besides the one it is sitting on to power it for the length of time it is parked (not counting nighttime, of course).

  18. Well, when they run out of ‘merican tax dollars, they’ll inevitably end up here in Ontario, Canada, where our Liberal government will borrow a few billion (or ten) and give them some.
    Luckily, there is an election in June, and the Progressive Conservative (really, that’s a real party here), might form the government.
    Worse case scenario, however, is that the New Democratic Party (which is neither new, nor particularly democratic) might also be elected. Think Green Party, but not quite as dumb.

  19. Sorry, I didn’t read the whole thing, but the test driveway was in Idaho? Maybe it snowed and solar panels don’t like snow shovels or salt?
    I missed just where the actual road test was done but I doubt it would hold up to an actual city snow plow…at least not until we can pave all our roads with transparent aluminum!

  20. The Sandpoint, Idaho test bed wasn’t even on a road. It was on a sidewalk at some sort of town square. It couldn’t even stand up to the wear and tear of people walking on it. I imagine it would have broken down even quicker if it had been on an actual road.

  21. Mr Eschenbach, so that is $36.86 or 0.0975c per day of Electricity at approximately $18,000 per Kw/h.
    That is an absolute bargain., it should pay for itself in about 124,000 years

    • Unfortunately it probably won’t last FIVE years, so better “recalculate.”

  22. Is it not about time there was a class action against those institutions that provided the finance for these sort of projects? At least we would get to see the thinking behind the assessment reports and the asinine logic behind it all.

  23. Does all the rubber from my tyres just bounce off to the side of the road or stick to the road surface?
    I suppose if it is to the side of the road then eventually the black hedges will be 50 feet tall, 50 feet thick and impenetrable (Sections could be cut out and set up along the Rio Grande).

  24. We need a WUWT project to crowd source many more such silly examples. Swansea tidal lagoon, wave generators, extra natural gas to power CSP plant Ivanpah, Solyndra, … Could make a whole ridicule book of essay examples crafted from guest posts like this one. I could edit, solicit a nice foreword from a prominent energy exec or two, and get published as another illustrated ebook as my publisher guaranteed followthru on all subsequent ebooks after my first acceptance. Would predonate all royalty proceeds to WUWT. Would be a nice payback to Anthony.
    Very sharp post, Willis. Reminds me of Einstein’s aphorism: ‘Only two things seem infinite, the universe and human stupidity. But I am not sure about the universe.’

  25. Um, why at least did they not just put the panels on the highway shoulders instead? Much less wear/tear. But I digress….

  26. I have an even better idea. Place coils under the blacktop and connect them to batteries, then place permanent magnets under the front and rear of each vehicle. Then as the cars drive down the road they will intercept each coil and create an electrical current. (Sarc off)
    Ask any traffic light designer why the quit using coils in the pavement. THEY BREAK. The construction of “Solar” roads that have even a five year lifetime will be even more expensive than the projects. One only need consider how soon and how frequently potholes, heat cracks/heaving, and all of the other problems highways and roads have, and how much the material that could withstand these problems would cost to realize it is just too expensive to consider.
    How about a solar panel as the top of a bridge? That would even keep rain and snow off of the bridge. Great Idea, right? Now consider the fact that a bridge, the entire bridge, was stolen right off of the foundation, overnight just a few miles from my home.

  27. To me at least, one needs to separate parking lot solar panels from roadway solar panels because, there is a way to put solar panels above the cars; ie, on stilts instead of under cars with their drip drip oil leaks. Of course, when one elevates solar panels, it’s best to install them at a latitude where it doesn’t snow or there are a lot more sunny days than cloudy days. Otherwise, when the subsidies go away, so does the reason for installing solar panels.
    Putting solar panels on roadways is really hare brain as glass, when wet, is really really slick. A number of years ago when recycling enthusiasm was just getting started, a solution to the over abundance of glass bottles…ah…wine, beer, and liquor, some road commissions thought that adding crushed glass to asphalt would be a win-win situation, that is, until the road traffic wear polished the glass. Then the rains came and the only people making money were the car wrecker companies who set up shop adjacent to bends in the road and made a “killing”. After multi-vehicle wrecks and some dead bodies did the whole highway portion made of glass get torn up and repaved, without glass asphalt.

  28. Living relatively close to Sandpoint, I can see a few problems–mainly lack of sunlight..
    Lots of clouds, rain, snow and ice, but a wonderful ski hill close to town.

  29. Have to check a solar roof installation nearby for something that I’ve only just noticed , all panels are touching edge to edge but there is a 2″ pong pipe protruding through the panels and I’m wondering how they did it without cutting the panel .

  30. At least they might have discussed this at the outset with an engineer or two (or even a thinking person from any walk of life!). The idea was not bad, but the design was terrible. They needed a checker board of raised inert supports that the tires could run over without abrading the surface or solar surfaces like the bottoms of bottles recessed in concrete to get the same protection. Maybe you could reduce the inert supports to about a third of the area of the roadway and make up some additional area by panels on stilts along the roadway.
    Having limited access roads would be sensible with automatic tire washers at the approaches. It would be pricey but would require at least a breakeven situation, probably with a toll. Perhaps the power could be sold in charging electric cars. Having said all this, it doesn’t meet my requirements as an investment opportunity yet.

    • Raised supports just create lots of pockets that will quickly fill with dust, polen and worn rubber.

    • Gary Pearse April 4, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      At least they might have discussed this at the outset with an engineer or two (or even a thinking person from any walk of life!).

      Yeah, but that discussion would have cost them 4.5 megabucks, so I’d have to say they were wise to avoid it …
      Follow the Benjamins!
      w.

      • can you imagine their lifestyle over the last years, any fool can see that its a scam.
        Any fool? Correct that.

  31. Now, my home electricity is expensive due to the asinine “renewable mandates” put into place by Governor Moonbeam here in Californistan.
    The renewable mandates were passed by the legislature and not repealed when put to the vote in a referendum. I’m sure Gov Brown supports them, but he is hardly solely responsible.
    Thank you for the update!

    • matthewrmarler April 4, 2018 at 3:50 pm

      Now, my home electricity is expensive due to the asinine “renewable mandates” put into place by Governor Moonbeam here in Californistan.

      The renewable mandates were passed by the legislature and not repealed when put to the vote in a referendum. I’m sure Gov Brown supports them, but he is hardly solely responsible.

      Actually, the 2008 referendum in favor of renewable standards (50% renewable by 2025) was voted down by nearly 2 to 1 …
      Despite that, Governor Moonbeam and his tame Democratic legislature keep pushing the mandate higher and higher.
      Brown is a huge force behind the push for the mandates, I will not absolve him one iota.
      w.

  32. Son, that is not lightning! It is the pavement arcing. …
    Children, DON’T play on the roadway when it is wet.
    Mom, can you come pick me up at school? The roads are wet.
    “Nightly News Special” — A new hazard to wildlife and record number of road kill…..
    “Nightly News Special” — Road kill, a new, safe food source! Follow the BBQ fragrance and find a fresh electrocuted BBQ road kill!
    “Nightly News Special, #3” — Neighborhoods are banding together to find safe passages through backyards as roads are deemed an electrocution hazard. Kids, dogs and joggers discover new backyard friendships!

    • Wonder what will happen when a lightning strike nearby those ground mounted solar pannels? You known, solar cells are diodes, and require electrical wiring, and lightning bolt by virtue of the di/dt induce HV in nearby conductors. Experiences have shown that more damages are done at surface/underground by lightning strike.

  33. Here’s an idea: Pave roads under street lights to capture the light then use the energy captured to power the street lights!
    Quick, give me a grant. Sorry, that won’t be enough

  34. I think they’re doing it the wrong way. Put the solar panels along the median or elevated over the road. If they do that people save money on gas because the cars/trucks are shaded and don’t use as much A/C AND they could use those new ‘wireless chargers’ to charge the battery operated cars while they are driving. Imagine unlimited range for an electric. Jobs galore! Win-Win!
    /end stupidity

  35. WOW… I mean the donations and the “inventors”… talk about a bunch of MAROONS with absolutely NO FRIGGIN’ common sens whatsoever…. yikes.

  36. Sandpoint, ID??? Why not someplace in a southern location where they get decent sun year round?
    Yes I know where Sandpoint,ID is I go camping/fishing about 60mi west of there every summer.

  37. https://arstechnica.com/cars/2016/12/worlds-first-solar-road-opens-in-france/
    https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/news/a19362/france-planning-over-600-miles-solar-panel-roads/
    https://www.ecowatch.com/this-solar-road-will-provide-power-to-5-million-people-1882163208.html
    All these French solar road articles date from 2016. I could not find anything from later years.
    Albert Einstein: Only the Universe and human stupidity are infinite, and I am not sure about the Universe.

  38. It’s a general feature of research that all the focus is on the next great idea but there is almost no scrutiny of past funding. What happened to those millions given in past grant awards. Universities frequently purchase equipment worth hundreds of k or even millions of dollars / euros etc. It fails to work as expected or simply proves to hard to operate or unreliable. So it just gets abandoned and gathers dust. Meanwhile the same researchers get busy and excited with the next megabuck grant application. The funding agencies seem to look only forward, never back in time to check the productivity of previous research awards.

  39. A much more robust technology is needed to exploit solar energy in road surfaces. One possibility might be to bioengineer a photosynthetic cyanobacteria or an alga that would live in the asphalt of a road and do something useful. For instance there is research interest in the green alga Botryococcus braunii which secretes hydrocarbons. Something like this could maybe be bioengineered to lay down heavy long chain hydrocarbons.
    https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07388550290789513
    Why would this be useful? What would be the deliverable of such an organism making roads green? It would not be electricity. But it might be a self-repairing road. If a crack ot pothole appeared in the road, the green road-bug could secrete long chain hydrocarbons which would mix with and bind to dust and dirt to make new asphalt, and in time fill up the hole.
    Also if the resident single celled organism made the road into a pleasing shade of green, that could be psychologically soothing to drivers (especially in California) and maybe even reduce stress and road-rage in drivers.

  40. A perfect example of what happens when you combine the stupidity of government, with the ingenuity of shysters.

  41. Inspirational. I might start a solar assault rifle company with some research projects into solar bump stocks and green tipped ammo.

  42. The results could have be much better if they had placed the solarpanels not on the road but above them as a kind of roof. The panels would not this easy be destroyed. If would have cost less en generate more electricity. It could work well for roofs of parking garages. But pannels on the road? This is what you get if a bussiness plan is just based on subsidies. I have seen more crazy plans. In a new housing project they place solar pannels on the northside of the roof. It must be very nice to live on taxpayers money.

    • How do you plan on suspending these panels?
      If by roadside pillars, how do you plan on protecting the pillars from cars, without killing the drivers in an accident?

    • Placing solar panels on the northside of buildings works where I live, in the northern hemisphere, not so much.
      Maybe they based their designs on an Australian research project. 🙂

  43. For a long time they have been building solar pannel covers in parking lots that provide covered parking and solar eletric energy. I assume that the solar panels on the covers last a lot longer because they are not run over all the time and they are better at producing energy because they are not covered by parked cars all the time. Because of much better alternatives already in production and use, the effort should have not gone further than the first phase I study. Who ever reviewed the phase one study and approved a phase II should be fired for being incopetent.

  44. Does anyone ever check the companies accounts to ascertain how the $4.5 million has been spent to achieve such poor results.? Are their accounts for the last four years available for public scrutiny?

  45. I have a solar road in front of my house.
    It is asphalt.
    It gets very hot in the summer.
    It doesn’t produce any electricity either but at least cars can drive on it.
    Perhaps I should start an Indiegogo page.

  46. Thing is, this solar roads concept has been thoroughly dismissed as nonsense a long time back, yet it STILL gets new funding. That is worrying. It means that the various administrations can’t spot a scam even when it jumps up and bites them.

    • It’s almost like fear, politics, misinformation and selective vision make for bad decisions..

  47. It’s got me thinking. If I install my roof solar panels under the roof sheathing (i.e.: in the attic), it would have multiple benefits:
    Protect the panels from falling debris, hail, high winds.
    Eliminate any potential roof system leaks from brackets and other penetrations.
    Eliminate the esthectic impact on the house.
    And as a bonus, I can save on the project costs by value engineering out the wiring since that’ll result in only a neglible reduction in power output.
    It’s all in how you think about it! I’ve got that grant application form around here somewhere…..

  48. As a bridge engineer (I have to know a few things about roads) I could add that pavements are something that a huge amount of effort goes into. Asphalt vs. Concrete, the type and exact asphalt mix, the design of each component is designed specifically per project based on environmental, traffic loading, traction requirements and other factors. States pay a lot of money for asphalt mix design. Therefore, replacing asphalt with an inferior (significantly) wearing surface is a tough sell. The electric cars will slip and slide on glass like they’re playing hockey. And the politicians will have to answer for the number of dead people on roads. Glass is never going to be a road material. Ever.

    • How much time will it take to turn a glass like material on a road surface, into a dirty matte surface? Even if coated CVD diamond.

    • A lot of the effort you describe, goes into making the surface quieter and less prone to surface-water build-up (and the resultant aquaplaning) in wet weather. There is now a porous asphalt which solves both these problems. Unfortunately (AFAIK) it is not as hard-wearing and needs to be replaced more frequently.
      Glass roadways with anti-slip surfaces will be incredibly noisy and extremely dangerous in wet-weather.

  49. It would probably be cheaper to have panels 10 feet over the parking lot, less potential damage risk, with the added benefit of shade against the sun (and protection from rain). I’m giving away this idea for free, no grants needed.

    • Semi’s are a lot taller than 10 feet.
      On occasion, even taller loads are transported on flatbeds.

      • Standard height is 13′ 6″. In most states/areas the measurement posted on the signs of overpasses and bridges are the height of what will safely pass under. IOW if the sign says 13′ 6″ it means that a load with a maximum height of 13′ 6″ can pass under it safely.
        But that doesn’t go for everywhere. NYC for example posts their clearances based on curb height. I have driven under the raised rail running over Broadway in Brooklyn pulling a 13′ 6″ high trailer when the clearance signs said 12′ 10″. I’ve been told they do this to allow for snow on the road but I really don’t know for sure why they do it differently than every place else.
        As a driver an OTR driver of a big truck one HAS to learn to read the signs and understand how to interpret them. Places like NY make that harder. Not only are clearances measured differently in NYC their mile markers and exit numbers do not follow the standards used in almost all the other states.
        I have never “topped” a trailer but there have been times I’ve had my head out the window looking up to see if I’m going to clear as I creep under and the issue is in doubt. One has to be very careful and know that on most trailers the rear of the trailer will ride slightly higher than the front. I have had to go under arched stone overpasses where I had to go down the middle of the road to clear a few times. It was the only way to get to where I had to go.

  50. Wow – where do you live in California? I pay closer to 22 cents per. You must be ignoring “transmission fees.”

  51. Every time I fly in an airplane I look down and marvel and how tiny humans footprint really is. Roads are not terribly visible from 30,000ft. But giant factories and warehouses roofs sure are! Why not put solar fields up on top of those roofs? That sure as hell makes more sense than paving roads and parking lots with solar panels (as others have pointed out, it isn’t good to crush or scratch a solar panel nor block the sun from it by parking over it)! And it makes much more sense than destroying a forest or desert ecosystem by putting up mammoth solar arrays or wind mills our in a pristine park! Stop destroying nature to create “renewable” energy, damnit! We in the petroleum industry have a far smaller footprint than any damn “green energy” company! Put your stupid solar panels on ROOFS, damnit! Use that wasted space, don’t take up more!

  52. I thought driving trucks over solar panels was just dandy. Same goes for Agilent and Tektronix equipment. What better place than roads cold there possibly be for solar panels? Roofs? No way, you can’t see them.

  53. And I genuinely haven’t a clue about the USA (I could call upon that little yellow dangly man inside a Google map maybe) but in the UK, roadside verges are always so very verdant and strong growing. So much better growing than the fields just behind them normally. And on quiet roads how the verge creeps across the tarmac/concrete whatever
    Despite all the Agri-Tech lavished on the fields.
    (As a peasant, now retired, it was my Professional Duty to notice these things. Old habits etc etc)
    Why the extra strong greenery next to all those dreadfully polluting cars?
    Possibly nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhausts but the verge would get hit by overshoot from the farming activity. Extra CO2?????
    I’d guess organic compounds from old asphalt/bitumen being broken up by UV & traffic plus tyre/rubber dust.
    Ever left an old car tyre out-of-doors for a decade or more? They go green, mouldy and disintegrate don’t they. What’s eating them? Somebody makes a feast there’s no doubt.
    All of which increase soil organic matter which feeds the soil bacteria – hence the plants.
    Also not least, ordinary (mineral/rock) dust being ground into ever finer particles by moving traffic. Then Humic Acid produced by the bacteria attacks the dust and the plants are in foody heaven.
    Would that sort of thing happen with glass roads and electric cars?
    How much carbon oxide is being captured by all that greenery?
    How much (extra) water does it transpire. Does it offset the heating effect of the black asphalt?
    Do folks pushing all this ultra clean super tech know these things, do they even notice?
    Do they even think?
    sigh. So many questions
    Here’s some good science to do regarding asphalt.
    On a summer evening, at sunset plus/minus an hour, visit your local town/city park.
    Take shoes and sox off and take those ten happy little thermometers cross country. They”ll luvvit.
    Take them over grassy areas (shaded and in-the-open), the kid’s sandpit, tennis court maybe, cement flags and also tarmac and concrete paths.
    Without spoiling your fun, let’s just say that those who insist that asphalt has a (global) heating effect may have some thinking to do on the way home…………… with regard UHI and how/what causes it.

  54. My nuclear-generated home electric bill is $.05/kwh.
    Every single road anywhere gets beat up by vehicles within a few years. Sure, let’s cover them with sensitive electronics. How about using up the roof space first (of course roofs have their own issues…).

  55. What I want is shopping-center parking lots with roofs against, for example, snow in its season, and rain, and summer sun turning my car into a solar cooker. Put solar panels up there! Use the power to run some amount of the shopping center’s needs! Take the energy that would otherwise go into frying my butt (!!) and put it to better use.

  56. If money were real (Silver and Gold) these types of unrealistic bills simply would not pile up to begin with.
    We can all still dream.

  57. I enjoyed the article. I’m a real fan of solar and we have a number of small sites. One of our systems produces 0.65 kwh on the shortest ,cloudy winter day in Canada. And it cost under $5000.
    Clearly we need better marketing people.

  58. Ill admit, I thought it was a good idea. Surely they could have approximated the output before they built the thing, shouldn’t they have been able to figure out it wouldnt be worth all that money?

  59. Let me get this straight! A bunch of years ago some very clever people in the UK worked out metrics for the correct degree of roughness for road surfaces for safety and water runoff……and here you have a slick road surface? OK I know the electrical output is an insult but are these people out of their minds? I think I just answered my own question!

  60. If only I could a grant like this to put a small windmill here at my house. Id never have to buy electricity again. I appreciate your taking the time to show the taxpayers how their money been wasted. Nice picture of the solar parking lot that the company’s owner’s wouldn’t even stand on, but they REALLY wanted someone to believe that a car could park on it??? Please tell me who are the uneducated people who passed out the grant money, and what is the address. I’m sure I can dream something up.

  61. I wonder what it would be like to crash a bike on this stuff? What sort of “road-rash” would result?

  62. Why did thy actually build something that proves the idea is stupid? If your company is in the business of selling new ideas, whether to government or individual suckers, you should never spend money implementing the idea. That is just money lost. To maximize your profit spent the money on ‘salaries’ and ‘expenses’ and of course on getting the next government grant.When the money runs out apply for more. Never actually build something that works. If necessary build something that doesn’t work and then claim that if only you had more money you could make it work.

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