The most efficient form of renewable energy may be right underneath us. Researchers at Worchester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts announced today that they have discovered a method to use road surfaces for solar collection.
The key is using the plentiful heat absorbed by asphalt pavement. By experimenting with different asphalt compositions, the team discovered that heat absorption in pavement can be significantly increased with the addition of highly conductive aggregates such as quartzite. Heat exchangers could be placed a few centimeters under the pavement to collect and use solar energy.
According to WPI, retrofitting roads and parking lots could turn them into massive solar farms, potentially eliminating the need independently constructed solar farms. This would be a huge boon for the solar energy industry, which currently uses huge swaths of land for its projects. The WPI research might also make solar viable in places where it might not be otherwise, as asphalt absorbs more heat than many other surfaces.
Pretty soon, you might just appreciate your local highway a little more.
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Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.