Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways

DrakeMackley, Staff Reporter

Idaho technology company, SolarRoadways, is being contracted to test their solar panel road design on iconic, Route 66. Local Missouri government is looking to the public for funding assistance to pay for the final amounts needed to start placing panels on the roads before the first snowfall of 2016. The solar roadway product was first announced in 2014 on Indiegogo, then promoted via a promotional video since the release of the video SolarRoadways has raised over $2.2 million in public funding.

According to the American Geophysical Union’s June 2004 article, there are 32,000 square miles of roads, sidewalks and other pavements that could be replaced with solar roadway panels. After adjusting solar yields due to road angles, glass thickness and weather, the solar roadways would produce 14,085 billion kilowatt-hours along the Canadian border. If the same tests were recreated in southern states, the yields would increase.

So how much energy is 14,085 billion kilowatt-hours? The Energy Information Administration stated in 2010 that the total energy consumption for all 50 states was 3,741 billion kilowatt-hours. If SolarRoadways placed their product on every road and sidewalk in the United States, our roads would be able to provide over three times the energy that Americans use. According to SolarRoadways, 50% of the greenhouse gases that are produced worldwide are a result of burning fossil fuels for electricity. Solar panel roads have the ability to cut greenhouse gases emitted through the burning of fossil fuels.

The second highest producer of harmful pollution is carbon emissions from motor vehicles and SolarRoadways panels also have a solution for that. The design released by SolarRoadways has the capability to charge electric vehicles, while they are driving in order to increase the range of electric cars and make them more practical. Solar roadway panels have the capability to reduce contribution to greenhouse gases by 75%. Solar roadways are more than just a road and solar panel mixed together. These hexagonal, LED filled, glass covered devices are intelligent. They remain snow and ice-free due to internal heating which keeps the roads over 32 degrees fahrenheit, and they require no paint. The panels also give a heads-up on the road for upcoming obstructions such as animals and fallen trees and provide safe placement for telephone and internet cables. Regions that receive more than five inches of snow annually are 70% of the US roadways. In winter, panels heat up then melt the snow/ice to prevent reductions in arrival times, speeds, and the 24 percent of automobile accidents that occur on snow-related roads every year. Not only would solar roads increase quality of life, but it is also more economically efficient. The US Department of Transportation stated that in 2009 the US spent 2.3 billion dollars on snow and ice control and additional funds repairing roads due to harmful climate effects.

SolarRoadways could be the solution to worldwide electricity; however, according to VOX, the cost to place this product in every American road would come close to $56 trillion. The American people will have to decide whether the huge price tag is worth the benefits that solar roadways provide.

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