I have been an EE for a long time, receiving my BSEE in 1992, and have worked in engineering and engineering management at several high tech companies. The hype around this solar roadways thing has been unbelievable to me, because it is so clearly impractical. I agree completely with the "Bullshit" video, and any other EE worth his salt will too. Yes it does sound really cool at first, conjuring up images of these sparking roadways that provide this huge amount of power. But less than a minute of critical thinking clearly shows it is not a good idea, even if technically feasible. The cost to build and maintain vs the power output is not even close. This really does show that much of our society clearly has more money than brains and it saddens me. We have plenty of cheap desert space to put solar panels at a far better cost/benefit ratio. Putting them in a road doesn't improve that ratio, in fact it makes it far worse! Perhaps the thinking is that we don't have to pay to build and maintain roads (the government does), thus this would be free power. They are going to use solar power to melt the ice on the road! Well guess what? When there is ice the solar panels will not get any sun and won't make power! Not to mention that asphalt is actually more efficient than silicon at converting sunlight to heat (ever walk barefoot on pavement on a hot summer day?) Come on people, we can do better than this. Thank you for the BS video, it gives me hope that all is not lost.
@Steve92 I was sceptical when I read this and it is nice to have this confirmed by someone far more qualified to comment than I am. There are far better environments for Solar panels than roadways. If you want power near roads, put the panels on nearby home roofs (angled better to catch the sunlight) and pay them a bit for the service. Or in adjacent fields, and pay the farmers. Who would pay for cleaning the cells on the roadways - they would rapidly get obscured by the dirt, tire rubber, etc that would accumulate on them. Apart from roadways being a public space they seem to have few other advantages.
I'd love to see what material they hope to make these out of that they can stand up to a snow plow (since it can be cloudy for a week in winter and the sun is pretty feeble up north in late December anyway)
Not to mention how they'll hold up to salt, sand, and freeze/thaw cycles in the gaps between panels.
If you wanted to put them in a parking lot, I'd rather see them used as a ROOF over the parking spots so your car doesn't get 1000 degrees in summer and you're protected from the rain. Probably cheaper to do that since you don't need special tough panels and more importantly if they're the parking lot THEY WON"T MAKE POWER WHERE CARS ARE PARKED! Did no one think this through? I guess if a company invents a way to make extra durable solar panels they have to think up a market for it...
If they have funds to build such costly solar panel roads all over united states , why not put the same money in putting solar panels on all the house roofs free of cost.
I think putting solar panels on the roofs will cost much less to install and maintain and you will get much more energy than what has been estimated by the road netwrok, because percentage wise I think the road area will be a very small percentage of the roof area of all the houses, buildings alongside those roads.
Of course it does not make financial or practical sense. When I saw an article on these folks a few years ago in our local paper (these folks are up north in the same state), I also cried bovine excretement! The level of hype on so many fronts is a warning sign in itself. The proposal is not rocket science, if it made sense, it would have been pursued earlier and by more people. These "inventors" are riding the wave of government funding (and now apparently crowd funding) and are obviously passionate about the possibility of becoming obscenely rich off such a large scale project. The saddest part is the engineer on the project failing to examine basic limitations of his idea.
I did a quick back-of-the envelope calculation a couple of weeks ago. In a severe snowstorm in the Chicago region, just in Cook County, if all the roads (excluding parking lots) were solar roadways, a 10 inch snowstorm would require over 2 hours of 45 TW of external power to melt the snow. Since they don't use solar (and couldn't when snow covered), that power has to come from outside the solar cell, and would require the full capacity of about 45 largish nuclear power plants. Their calculations apparently didn't include the latent heat to melt snow, but only observed that their panel was "warm to the touch" in cold weather. If one can't melt the snow, one needs snowplows and salt, which will ruin these solar cells. It even snows in Texas, and when it does, they usually need all their power to heat homes.
I also noted their calculation of providing 3x the power the US currently uses. They based their number on the amount of impervious surfaces, which includes roofs, so panels would be needed on every roof as well as every road, parking lot, and sidewalk, to provide 3x power.
If steve92 has been an engineer for a long time, then I guess I've been an engineer for a really long time. Without looking at any details of the concept, the obvious problem is dirt, oil, debris - the junk you find on any road. Melting off snow is laughable - you don't even need a calculator to see how that is completely unrealistic. The people donating to this could have donated to a revival of Reading Rainbow instead.
As we unveil EE Times’ 2015 Silicon 60 list, journalist & Silicon 60 researcher Peter Clarke hosts a conversation on startups in the electronics industry. Panelists Dan Armbrust (investment firm Silicon Catalyst), Andrew Kau (venture capital firm Walden International), and Stan Boland (successful serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Neul, Icera) join in the live debate.