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Published on May 30th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Solar Roadways Raises $1.67 Million, 22 Days Left On IndieGogo (VIDEO)

May 30th, 2014 by  

We’ve published articles on this Solar Roadways team many times over the years. It seems that the same discussion follows — many people are very critical of this idea since putting solar panels on rooftops is much cheaper.

However, this isn’t really an issue of solar rooftops versus solar roads. This is an issue of solar rooftops + normal roads versus solar rooftops + solar roads. The solar roads would be competing with conventional roads.

I think everyone is well aware now that underneath roads isn’t the best place to stick solar panels, as the roads will get dirty, scratched, shaded, and so on. However, conventional roads never “pay for themselves” since the don’t directly generate anything, whereas these solar roadways would supposedly be able to do so.

All that said, I haven’t crunched the numbers on this or closely examined the assumptions. If it interests you, feel free to do so and drop them in the comments below. I assume the 38,586 people who pledged to fund the project on IndieGogo (bringing it up above $1.67 million with 22 days still remaining) did crunch the numbers…. Well, actually, I assume the large majority didn’t. But they should have.

Here’s a bit more from Chris on the campaign and overall idea:

Video: Solar Roadways Raises $1.5 Million And Counting (via Gas 2.0)

The far-out idea of replacing America’s asphalt roads with solar panels apparently has plenty of appeal. The Solar Roadways IndieGoGo campaign has raised some $1.5 million to use towards research and development of this cutting-edge solution to our…

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About the Author

Zach is tryin’ to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he’s also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada.

Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don’t jump to conclusions.

  • Maryclare Mastrangelo Phillips

    These panels, it seems, would be much better suited for say, a college campus or public park. New Mexico Tech would be a perfect place to showcase these

  • Todd
    • Bob_Wallace

      Ah, you simply don’t believe enough. Belief overrides facts, don’t cha know?

  • Annette

    Charging electric cars along with busses would be another HUGE benefit of solar roads. http://cleantechnica.com/2014/05/29/volvo-group-aiming-test-electric-roads-2015-gothenburg/

  • Stan999

    I think we will pave our highways with gold before they pave them with these things. Gold would be cheaper. Geez. Get real.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Well, in Australia our highways are already 3 or 4 million dollars a kilometer. Gold plating them would cost much less than that. (Gold paving them though, that would be expensive.) In Australia dumb modular road surfaces may become a thing. That is, road surface modules with no heating (not needed), LEDs, or PV, which can be quickly placed on a prepared roadbed. A couple of reasons they may be used are asphalt is no longer cheap as it now goes in cars instead of under them and low carbon emission concrete isn’t difficult to make if you don’t mind waiting a couple of months for it to cure. So the units may be made and cured offsite and then trucked in for quick road construction and hopefully easier maintenance.

      • Stan999

        ha ha. Yeah, well….keep working on that one. I think if I lived “down under” I’d just get an airplane and fly everywhere. Maybe you guys should just jump to levitating cars and skip the road construction. Hmmm…22 million people on an entire continent. Good luck with affordable roads…

  • john

    I am concerned about glitches in the LED lighting system. If it messes up when people are driving on the highway, a lot of people would die.

  • Elizabeth J. Baldwin

    Good grief! We did not get our 4 million miles of paved roadways in one fell swoop. It took many decades to pave all those roads.
    Why in the world are you blathering on as if we would plan to repave every mile of those roads within the next year or so.
    Here’s a hint-you start somewhere. I’d be glad to use this technology on our drive and the pads where we park our farm equipment.
    A mile of road here, a mile of road there, a parking lot and a hundred years from now our grandchildren regard solar collecting roads as normal. Probably don’t even think about them.

  • LookingForward

    Like the author said, don’t look at this as solar, but as roads with benefits.
    To name some pros and cons.
    resources/product costs definitly a con will be more expensive per mile
    constructing/mile/location for now let’s say 20% more expensive
    maintenance for now let’s say 20% cheaper
    cleaning roads with an irrigation system, it can be cheaper
    snowplowing will only cost electricity, no machines/manpower needed in most/all(?) of the areas/time in the US
    visibility of roadsigns definitly a pro
    How long they last they say 15/20 years, some normal roads last longer others shorter depends on location, but maintenance is cheaper
    total direct costs total direct costs of 1 mile of road in it’s total lifespan including maintenance and cleaning minus electricity production will, I think, be less then normal roads.
    medical costs of accidents medical costs because of snow and ice are billions
    damage costs of accidents damage costs because of snow and ice are billions.

  • Matt

    these are not the first people to do this idea, just the first to get $1-2mill to play with. It will come down to cost to install, how long they last. How much power they generate. More than they use? How do they handle the freeze thaw cycle?

  • Choming Girl

    I can’t believe on this news because of http://goo.gl/XI0lwP

  • Canadahopeful

    Unfortunately you are in the wrong country to try and get this tech off the ground. Too many lobbyists and oil/gas hungry companies would gladly pay to demonize the tech. Get to Norway or Spain where countries welcome clean tech.
    What is the cost of each panel installed and how much energy would it create? What is the lifespan of a panel?

  • Senlac

    Solar should be tried everywhere we can manage. As long as we keep pushing the envelop, good things will eventually happen, can’t be afraid to fail.

  • Doug Cutler

    There is a special part of the human brain dedicated specifically to novelty. Clearly this idea has tweaked that zone for many. I give the couple credit for imagination and tech savvy but the larger vision of all roads covered is mega grandiose.

    First of all, I just don’t see how highway snow plowing would be avoided. A few inches of snowfall at night with next to no solar gain come morning? It just doesn’t figure. Nevertheless we might imagine limited yet appropriate uses for this tech. My first thought is side walks in urban commercial zones making it easier to keep storefront walkways ice free and where light shows could add to the fun. Certain tight streets in urban areas where snow plowing is already problematic might also benefit. Then there’s always driveways of the wealthy. Just these limited applications could be a great profit for this couple. I wish them luck.

    • Tom Alston

      Did you not watch any of the videos on the idea you are critiquing? The solar road panels have heating elements that keep the surface just above freezing, keeping them snow free, and eliminating the need for snow plows.

      • Dave Godfrey

        Tom, have you calculated how much heat it would take to keep a three inch snow fall “off” the road? In the daytime? And at least half of all snow falls in darkness….Batteries?

      • Doug Cutler

        Tom, yes I understand the heat component which is why I cited the three possible niche uses that I did.

        These tiles would be use resistance heaters which are notorious for drawing large amounts current. Resistance heaters are almost never spoken of in the same breath as solar PV. (Solar PV paired with heat pumps on the other hand can be quite effective because they can multiple solar PV power by a factor of 4 or 5.)

        But just do the thought experiment: you’re in the top half of US or even Canada. Its deep in December. There’s hardly any sun to begin with. When the sun does show up its low in the sky and only at a decent solar angle for a few hours a day. Temp is 10 below freezing. You just had a 8 inch snowfall overnight. Morning rush hour is about to begin and the skies are overcast. So how much light is actually getting through to the roadway panels? If your lucky your solar panels are working at about .00001% efficiency, if not zero. That snow ain’t goin’ nowhere unless someone plows it.

        Don’t get me wrong, my friend. If you read any of other my posts here you will see I’m an acolyte of the Green Dragon. With the several trillions of dollars it would take to redo Amercia’s roads with these panels you could decarbonize the entire planet a few times over.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Electrically heated roadways would draw power from the mains. Whether or not it is economically worthwhile to do so is something I don’t know, but I have seen what happens in Japan when a water based snow clearing system gets overwhelmed by heavy snowfall. It’s fairly disruptive.

          • Doug Cutler

            I assume you mean water runoff. Or is mains road heating overwhelming the grid? I might understand limited road heating in tight urban streets where heavy snow must be routinely trucked out. Perhaps it could save money and energy there. I’m guessing though.

          • Ronald Brakels

            In areas of Japan with heavy snowfall but where it isn’t cold enough for the ground to freeze, it is common for water sprinklers to be built into the center of roads to keep them free of ice and snow. But they can be overwhelmed by heavy snowfalls and stop working. Electrically heated roads, which have been trialed on a small scale in a few places, don’t get overwhelmed by snowfall, but can require a huge amount of power. I presume that if used electrically heated roads would do most of their snow melting in the early hours of the morning when electricity costs are lower. The economics of it would all depend on the characteristics of a particular location. Even if only a single lane was cleared and its use restricted to buses and emergency vehicles that would be a huge help in a blizzard situation.

        • Rick Kargaard

          There are lots of roads and parking lots south of the Mason Dixon line and in Mexico. I think they could generate more power than we need, several trillion dollars before they need to consider problem areas like Canada or flood prone areas.

          • Doug Cutler

            Yes, in high sun regions its a different calculation. There you would put these solar tiles up against a number representing the combined cost of regular solar PV plus regular road construction and maintenance. You would have to include the life cycle cost of the solar tiles functioning strictly as road covering. How well do they hold up? How often do they need replacing in whole or part? Certain types of road work relates to the under bed. What’s the cost of lifting these tiles to get at the under bed then replacing them compared to stripping regular pavement and so on. Back to pure solar performance comparison, consider also the solar road tiles wold not have optimal sun orientation. It would be an interesting cost benefit analysis for sure.

            I think they might be able to sell a bunch of these things for select purposes: driveways, commercial urban, city centers just for the light show fun with the controlled LED component, i.e.,programmable pubic art, perhaps even sidewalk advertising. They could make a bundle. Hope they do. I just don’t think we’ll see the major highways covered with them.

          • Rick Kargaard

            For sure, not anyttime soon, but the concept is fascinating.

        • Kintaro

          Just transfer energy from Texas Solar Roadways to Main Solar Roadways…

          • Kintaro

            Main => Maine

  • Ahmet

    there is no area shortages in the world except a few country. with 56 trillion dolars world can produce all of its electricty with solar. This project is more road costruction project than solar.

  • Paul_McClure

    I agree roads, as abused as they are would be less than ideal. But, if it works at some sense of economy then go for it. Like any tech it will have limits. In my part of the country flooding is not uncommon. Why not solar ‘trees’ lining the road? Less wear and tear, and many communities already have street lights so a pole with stuff should be invisible.

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