It wasn’t that long ago–2006–when we first heard about Solar Roadways, the brainchild of Scott and Julie Brusaw. Most of us have watched Solar Freakin’ Roadways, the video created to further illustrate what they are, what they do, and why it’s just silly to continue doing things old school. If you haven’t seen the video, just imagine a tennis court, a bike path, or a stretch of road composed of interlocking hexagonal sections made from recycled, tempered glass, and that each section collects sunlight and converts it into electricity, as well as serving a host of other functions, since each one is a “smart” panel.
Unfortunately, as with every great invention, the Brusaws have met with more naysayers than advocates, essentially slowing them down, and preventing the rest of the world from reaping the multiple benefits–what’s wrong with a cleaner, more efficient world? As usual, proponents of Solar Roadways are forced to repel borders with antagonists who either want to prove how smart they are, or were hired to discredit the technology, as it threatens an entire way of life based on crude oil. But, just like the misinformation propagated by global warming/climate change deniers, it’s nothing more than junk science.
Debunking the Doubters
Opponents of Solar Roadways, and solar power, in general, have come up with some laughable arguments. Most are easily dismissed, while some require a bit of thinking for the protagonists to formulate their defense. Here are a few examples of what we are up against.
- LED lights don’t show up in the daylight: Really? Solar Roadway units feature programmable LED lights that could serve myriad purposes. Opponents claim LED lights don’t show up in sunlight. Gee, aren’t most automobile tail lights, as well as headlights, LED? And wasn’t the reason the auto industry started switching up to LED lights in the first place because they are far easier to see in varying light conditions, night or day?
- Glass won’t stand up to the abuse: There have been some hilarious videos wherein naysayers do goofy things like scratch the bottom of a glass, or a glass jar, with a chunk of asphalt. Yep, sure enough, asphalt scratches glass. Wow, too bad the word “glass” is used to describe a broad spectrum of products; the glass used to make Solar Roadways is a tempered composite, and has already been proven to handle the weight ratios and abuse it would encounter in the real world. And, who drives a car with chunks of asphalt for tires?
- Solar panel roads won’t get enough sunlight: The argument is, that because roads are basically flat, they won’t be able to absorb the majority of sunlight as the sun travels between horizons. Uh… Where do most people plant a garden? That’s right–where the ground is flat! It’s a silly argument, anyway. Most roads are exposed to the majority of each day’s sun every day–there is nothing blocking the sun at a constant. Not to mention the fact that we’re talking about thousands, upon thousands of these solar units working together, collecting sunlight continuously. This energy will not only be more than enough to power any electrical functions within its own grid, it can power street lamps, traffic lights, and will be able–eventually–to transfer this energy to collecting units on electric cars.
Dispelling the Biggest Argument
When opponents really are afraid of something, they like to start throwing cost numbers around, and when this happens fair-weather-friends also become frightened, and tend to fall away. Recently, regardless of what his personal feelings may be, Don Willmott (Huffington Post), wrote a short article which basically stated that Solar Roadways is simply too expensive–he called it, “cost-prohibitive.”
He cited a similar project–a bicycle path in a town outside of Amsterdam–as a cost example. The 230 foot stretch was replaced by some solar collecting panels (basically sandwiched between concrete and tempered glass) by the group, Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. The article downplays the fact that this experiment is producing enough electricity to power three homes, and concentrates on the cost, instead. The project cost $3.7 million. This number than turns into a projected $1.1 billion, when a comparison is made with a 13 mile bike path in Manhattan.
Hmm… Compare that to the reality of what a normal road costs. Many bike trails and roads are made from good ol‘ asphalt. At 2 inches thick, it takes 1,548 tons of asphalt to cover 1 mile of road. What’s asphalt made out of? Asphalt is made from nothing less than crude oil! It is strengthened with aggregates–quarried granite gouged from the sides of mountains, and then crushed into powder. And this way of thinking puts big holes in our planet, and creates more pollution in the process.
Even though proponents of old school thinking have at least attempted to reuse asphalt and concrete, it’s not a sustainable material–the majority of asphalt or concrete reused is pale in comparison to the amounts of new material added to the mix to make it work. In the meantime, the world’s deposits of crude oil are all but gone, though people are still oil- dependent, and quarrying for more aggregates continues, scaring the landscape in much the same way as mountain-top removal mining operations for coal.
Time to Change
Solar power is free. The sun’s going to be around for a long time. Harnessing its power in anyway we can is the smartest thing we can do. If we are going to change, then we have to get past our fears, and look at the big picture. At the moment, all roads do is provide a place to drive a car. Why not make them do more than one thing? Utilizing an otherwise useless space just makes sense.
Aaaaannd Here is Solar Freakin’ Roadways.