Solar Roadways?


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election



  • My main questions are:

    1. How does it hold up during a rollover car crash event?
    2. What percentage of the road can fail and still remain operational?
    3. How would the road handle a 52 foot truck tire blowout?
    4. What is the weight limit of the road?
    5. How do the panels work at grade?
    6. How are different curve radii handled?
    7. What are the maintenance costs?
    8. How hard is it to steal a panel?
    9. What are the surface's earthquake/fire/tornado performance properties?
    10. How tamper-proof are the roads/panels?
    11. Tree roots vs. road - who wins?

    The idea has a lot of potential, but I think that, ultimately, the real-world needs for road geometry will relegate this tech to low grade roads and parking lots. Too much of the US is rural road that rarely, if ever, receives maintenance.


  • mod

    I think it has the potential to be practical. I can think of a few things that push it more toward the pipedream:

    • If this were put into use in high traffic areas (e.g., CA's bay area, much of America's east coast), would the solar panels really see enough sun to be effective?
    • What's the power balance of keeping the panels above freezing (I think the video said 8 degrees above)? At that point, are the panels using more power than they are generating, or are they still contributing to the power grid? Same question with the built in LED's, especially in locations that see very little sun in the winter (looking at you Canada/Alaska/etc.).
    • What's the cost effectiveness of putting this into use on more remote roads? Take into consideration distance from maintenance centers, ease of access, and then there's the cost to transport the generated/consumed electricity, and probably more that I'm not even thinking of.
    • What's the cost to transition to these panels from more traditional road materials, including the expense of wiring these roads into existing power grids.
    • How durable are these panels? They claim to be built to handle cold temperatures, but what about high temps?

    In the end, I don't think these will see widespread acceptance. They might be used in private driveways, maybe a few cities will do test zones, and maybe a few rec centers will use them to surface some stuff, but that will probably be it.



  • I'm not gonna watch this whole video, the first 30 seconds were painful enough.

    Solar roadways belong in the "Side Bar WTF" category. They're more expensive (probably MUCH more expensive) than standard solar panels and offer no real advantage other than taking up no space. But cost is precisely the bottleneck of solar panels, you don't see people complaining they don't have enough space on their roof to put more solar panels.



  • @anonymous234 said:

    Solar roadways belong in the "Side Bar WTF" category.

    I think they would fit right in on the Bad Ideas thread. I can't see them scaling to be anything significant. Unless they've come up with a new way to make solar panels that don't rely on rare earth shit.



  • I'm really turned off by the snakeoil salesman quality of the video, they barely stop short of saying it's going to cure cancer and create world peace.

    That aside... it's a cool idea that seems like it would be more practical in smaller implementations like sidewalks and park walkways; you know, places that aren't under literal tons of stress constantly. Further down that road... is the problem with solar really a matter of where to put it? there are tons of roofs out there that are vacant and don't have nearly the same number of problems as roads.

    Again — cool futuristic idea, but they seem to have intentionally found the least practical application for solar panels (aside from burying them underground).


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @awesomerobot said:

    I'm really turned off by the snakeoil salesman quality of the video, they barely stop short of saying it's going to cure cancer and create world peace.

    Funny thing, I have no audio at the workplace. A coworker sent me the link, and I skimmed the available text, and I posted it here to get outside opinions (more accurately, to get negative opinions to counterbalance the marketing hype). But yeah, I posted a video I've never watched.

    @awesomerobot said:

    you know, places that aren't under literal tons of stress constantly.

    They seem to think it can handle large loads.

    Personally, I'm more attracted to the dynamic changing of LEDs. You could put up warning signs for construction, light dark areas, label personalized parking spaces, advertise Pepsi products



  • @error said:

    They seem to think it can handle large loads.

    Part of the video show a back hoe (or something like that...I forget exactly what now) driving on top of some. Of course, that doesn't say anything about its endurance. Or what you have to put under them in the first place.



  • @error said:

    Personally, I'm more attracted to the dynamic changing of LEDs. You could put up warning signs for construction, light dark areas, label personalized parking spaces, advertise Pepsi products

    You could even have glitches where the road suddenly orients itself in a different direction. Take that, roads made of inexpensive materials!


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @ben_lubar said:

    You could even have glitches where the road suddenly orients itself in a different direction. Take that, roads made of inexpensive materials!

    Are you saying this could be the Discourse of roadways?



  • Two things occur to me (neither are positive!);

    One is cost (as mentioned). The cost of a solar panel must be truly astronomical compared to a lump of tarmac, both in terms of raw materials and the labo(u)r to fit it.
    The other, as a biker, is whether it would be possible to make a solar surface that did not have a coefficient of friction akin to frozen glass...?

    Oh - and one other bonus point; I have no idea what solar panels are made of but I wonder how much of whatever the primary active ingredient is, is actually available in anywhere near the abundance to cover all of these surfaces?



  • @skotl said:

    I have no idea what solar panels are made of but I wonder how much of whatever the primary active ingredient is, is actually available in anywhere near the abundance to cover all of these surfaces?

    @WIkipedia said:

    Silicon is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, but very rarely occurs as the pure free element in nature. It is most widely distributed in dusts, sands, planetoids, and planets as various forms of silicon dioxide (silica) or silicates. Over 90% of the Earth's crust is composed of silicate minerals, making silicon the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust (about 28% by mass) after oxygen.[7]

    Discourse won't let me post this pasted text from Wikipedia unless I add some text that isn't formatted as a quote.



  • Well, awesome, let all the roads be made of solar panels, then :laughing:


  • mod

    @skotl said:

    The other, as a biker, is whether it would be possible to make a solar surface that did not have a coefficient of friction akin to frozen glass...?

    The video did say something about a textured surface for traction purposes. If they didn't have that, this would be shit in the rain, or on hills.



  • @skotl said:

    The other, as a biker...

    I'm a motorcyclist too and I'm always wary of new road technologies because too many of those ivory tower thinktanks either forget we exist or wish we'd go away, and propose stuff that would either kill bikers or force us to give up. Example, solar roadways (possibly) and all the self-driving computer-controlled intercommunicating Wi-Fi car ideas that would be cost-prohibitive and potentially dangerous to put on a bike.



  • @mott555 said:

    I'm a motorcyclist too and I'm always wary of new road technologies because too many of those ivory tower thinktanks either forget we exist or wish we'd go away, and propose stuff that would either kill bikers or force us to give up. Example, solar roadways (possibly) and all the self-driving computer-controlled intercommunicating Wi-Fi car ideas that would be cost-prohibitive and potentially dangerous to put on a bike.

    Don't forget the mandated use of ethanol that plays hell with the higher compression engines in motorcycles - particularly when carburetors are the fuel delivery mechanism or they are air cooled (not a problem for cars since the early 80s, but is with smaller road bikes and until a couple of years ago even bigger bikes like Harley Sportsters)



  • @DrakeSmith said:

    Don't forget the mandated use of ethanol that plays hell with the higher compression engines in motorcycles - particularly when carburetors are the fuel delivery mechanism or they are air cooled (not a problem for cars since the early 80s, but is with smaller road bikes and until a couple of years ago even bigger bikes like Harley Sportsters)

    Thankfully I live in a state where you can still get straight gasoline. My last state had mandatory ethanol and that was one of the reasons I sold off my gas pickup and replaced it with a diesel one.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @rad131304 said:

    Tree roots vs. road - who wins?

    Tree roots, always. Same as with ordinary roads given a bit of time and not enough maintenance. Trees are amazing.



  • @error said:

    They seem to think it can handle large loads.

    I'm sure it can, but there are plenty of places to put solar panels that don't need to - so I'm just not sure why you'd put something under constant stress that doesn't really need to be put under constant stress.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @awesomerobot said:

    I'm just not sure why you'd put something under constant stress that doesn't really need to be put under constant stress.

    I'm sure that would seem sensible to some managers, given how they feel they must treat their staff…



  • @awesomerobot said:

    I'm just not sure why you'd put something under constant stress that doesn't really need to be put under constant stress

    Are we back to discussing TDWTF on Discourse? :laughing:



  • My biggest concern is how these LED lane markings are meant to work during the day. We don't live in a world of eternal night just yet - and if we did, solar roadways would be the worst possible idea ever.



  • Their more-extensive-than-I-expected FAQ seems to address — well, recognize — a lot of the questions we raised here.

    Regarding traction:

    We sent samples of textured glass to a university civil engineering lab for traction testing. We started off being able to stop a car going 40 mph on a wet surface in the required distance. We designed a more and more aggressive surface pattern until we got a call form the lab one day: we'd torn the boot off of the British Pendulum Testing apparatus!
    Regarding earthquakes and panels being stolen, their approach seems to be: panels communicate wirelessly, so although these problems are unavoidable, panels will call for help when it happens.

    Regarding rare earth materials: "we don't have the expertise, but we plan on getting someone who has".

    As for the heating being cost-effective, their response is something like "there are lots of variables here, we're still experimenting, there may be climates when it's not worthwhile, hey we could make a consulting business out of this!"
    @anonymous234 said:

    I'm not gonna watch this whole video, the first 30 seconds were painful enough.
    You'll be interested in knowing that at 3:59 they have an "emotional interlude", complete with soft acoustic guitar.

    I like the concept, but I'm having trouble imagining how to pave roads with 3D curvature with fixed-size tiles.



  • @Zecc said:

    Regarding rare earth materials: "we don't have the expertise, but we plan on getting someone who has".

    Translation: And then a miracle happens.

    Maybe it will.



  • @dfcowell said:

    My biggest concern is how these LED lane markings are meant to work during the day. We don't live in a world of eternal night just yet - and if we did, solar roadways would be the worst possible idea ever.

    Here some crosswalks have blinking white LEDs embedded, and those are surprisingly noticeable, even on sunny days in direct sunlight.



  • @Zecc said:

    panels communicate wirelessly, so although these problems are unavoidable, panels will call for help when it happens.

    I'm looking forward to someone finding out they left SSH enabled with the default password and hacking the LEDs to display obscene messages.

    Also, this is why we need IPv6: some day we might actually need one address per square foot of surface on the planet.



  • "Hey, Bob! I'm getting a 404 road not found from https://90890121312.i05.ca.gov"

    Actually, if these things implement NFC it could mean interesting things for these fancy new self-driving cars. Could be interesting, particularly if the tiles track the state of their neighbours.



  • I'm skeptical but curious. The people behind it at least don't sound like the usual snake-oil types who say their idea will solve all problems that anybody has ever had if we just give them more money. It's probably at least a decent idea for some parking lots, household driveways, residential roads, etc. I'm not so sure it'll ever make the grade for urban or rural highways, but hey, it doesn't have to work everywhere to be useful.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @ufmace said:

    it doesn't have to work everywhere to be useful

    Exactly that.



  • @ufmace said:

    it doesn't have to work everywhere to be useful.

    Even if it isn't a complete failure everywhere, it can still be better implemented completely differently. I still don't get why you'd want to put them on a road / parking surface instead of, say, a roof. I don't see a way to salvage this idea without magic.


    Filed Under: Fools and their money


  • Banned

    This was just posted as a response to some of the fears out there

    http://solarroadways.com/clearingthefreakinair.shtml



  • @http://solarroadways.com/clearingthefreakinair.shtml6 said:

    So if anyone tries to tell you that glass is soft, just remind them that even simple window glass is harder than steel. By comparison, it's asphalt that is soft.
    Oh, so it's harder to leave a scratch on the surface of the road.

    But no comment on strength, brittleness and toughness? (Can you tell I just gave a quick glance at Wikipedia?)



  • At least they got this one right:

    [quote="Solar freakin roadways]
    False Claim: Glass is softer than asphalt
    [/quote]

    But I like how they think their solution is awesome because asphalt is too expensive. Yeah, let's solve this by using something more expensive. And even though solar installations that are just solar panels and don't have all of the disadvantages that these do don't pay for themselves, somehow these will!


    Filed Under: PFM



  • I was going to make a joke about the artice about cleavage being disappointing....

    But apparently there is a Cleavage (breasts) article and even a Cleavage enhancement article. (Possibly NSFW depending on your employer's policy on cleavages.)

    Skimming, I found this bit:

    For legal purposes it was noted by the United States federal courts that "anal cleft or cleavage" and "cleavage of the female breast" are so imprecise as to provide no guidance in defining them.

    I'm glad that's been cleared up.

    Oh wow, there's even an audio version of "Cleavage (breasts)"!





  • @PJH why can't I view the edit? I consider hiding of edits (like they are on BB) a barrier to transparency


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @riking said:

    @PJH why can't I view the edit?

    See else-thread. They were deliberately hidden.

    @riking said:

    I consider hiding of edits (like they are on BB) a barrier to transparency

    Not too far from the truth. In mitigation, the edit window has been reduced to 1/365th of what it used to be...



  • @PJH said:

    Not too far from the truth. In mitigation, the edit window has been reduced to 1/365th of what it used to be...

    Really? I can see that causing problems.

    I'd suggest something like a month if you want to have it take effect.



  • @riking said:

    I can see that causing problems.

    What problems?

    @riking said:

    I'd suggest something like a month if you want to have it take effect.

    I don't understand. Settings don't take effect? Posts made before the setting change can still be edited a year from now?

    so many questions


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @riking said:

    Really? I can see that causing problems.

    Well considering it's 288 times longer than we had on CS, I can't see what problems it could cause. Unless (which was considered) we take ninja down to 1 second and edit down to 5 minutes to duplicate what we did have on CS....



  • This guy in my youtube inbox has a huge rage-boner against Solar Roadways.

    Solar Roadways, a VERY expensive joke? – 26:58
    — Thunderf00t

    He's a bit of a blowhard, but his science is probably solid.

    TLDW: Solar roadways seem to be somewhere between cold fusion and perpettummobile in terms of viability. And thats with cold fusion at the upper end of the spectrum.


  • mod

    @PJH said:

    See else-thread.

    Which thread? Please link.


  • BINNED

    @cartman82 said:

    He's a bit of a blowhard, but his science is probably solid.

    He can be a dick, yes. But he usually doesn't skimp on science.

    I do have to disagree on the LED front with him though. There are lots of LED traffic lights around here, and I can see them fine. Also, LED daylights on cars. Now, sure, at a fucked-up angle you won't see anything. But I can't even see the road without sunglasses on a sunny day so YMMV anyway.



  • The worst is seeing the road on a rainy night. Fuck, where did the lane markings go‽ Especially when you're going through a section of road being worked on where the lanes go all weird. Or when they've painted over the old lines and painted the new lines, and the road is lined up with the sun, which is going down / coming up and the old and new lines look the same. Argh.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @abarker said:

    Which thread? Please link.

    Probably the most relevant post, but you may want to scroll up a bit.



  • @boomzilla said:

    the road is lined up with the sun, which is going down / coming up and the old and new lines look the same.

    Drive into the sun.



  • @dhromed said:

    Drive into the sun.

    ...and probably also into the truck in the next lane.


  • BINNED

    @boomzilla said:

    The worst is seeing the road on a rainy night.

    I'd agree if I didn't have some weird issue with reflections and my eyes. And no, it's not the "too much looking at the screen" thing, been that way since I was a child.

    Direct sunlight on a road (or any other relatively smooth surface) causes me literal pain. When I had to get perscription glasses I specially looked for the ones with a sunglasses attachment so I don't have to buy another pair, because without sunglasses on a sunny day the only place my car is going is into a ditch.

    Wet road at night I can at least handle with only my eyes.


  • mod

    Thanks.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @dhromed said:

    Drive into the sun.

    Wouldn't a space rocket be more suitable for that?



    Oh wait, it's a metaphor! That's all right then…


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