Are Solar Tiles the Roadways of the Future?
Most people who commute everyday understand the frustration that happens when a road you use is being re-paved or repaired. An ice storm makes things even worse. And who hasn’t wished they could save a little money on their energy bills? The Solar Roadways Project, being tested right now, might be the solution to all of these problems.
What Are Solar Roadways?
The building block of a Solar Roadway is an octagonal textured glass tile that holds solar cells, LED lights and a heating coil. These tiles could be used to cover parking lots, sidewalks and roads across the country. Because of the solar cells contained in them, they would collect and store enough energy to not only pay for their own installation and upkeep over time, but also generate additional power for the owner of the land on which they’re placed.
What Can They Do?
Here are some exciting features planned for the Solar Roadways:
- They are weight and traction tested to be safe for up to 250,000 pounds and have at least as much traction as asphalt.
- LED Lights included in the tiles can “paint” road lines from underneath. These would light up the roads for safer driving at night or in bad weather. They could also be instantly changed to reflect altered traffic patterns due to accidents, congestion or other special events.
- The heating element can “defrost” the road, just like your windshield, to prevent snow and ice build-up.
- There is talk of adding a weight sensor that would detect pedestrians or animals entering the roadway ahead and warn oncoming traffic to slow down.
- Maintenance of these roads would be cheaper and faster than traditional roads, since you could replace individual tiles rather than having to repair large stretches of road.
- Cable corridors and stormwater storage are part of the plan as well.
- Potentially, an electric road would allow electric cars to re-charge anywhere, even while driving.
When Will I See One?
The people behind Solar Roadways have been awarded two research contracts from the Federal Highway Administration to develop prototypes. Phase I has been completed, and they are currently working on a Phase II prototype: a parking lot being tested under all weather and sunlight conditions.
Although an actual Solar Roadway is years away, progress is moving quickly. This project offers an exciting opportunity for states, cities, and even private landowners to save money by turning their asphalt roads, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots into energy-producing surfaces.
Even if you never get to install a Solar Roadway on your own property, the potential tax savings for a landowner in areas that adopt them is tremendous. Smart Growth America (www.smartgrowthamerica.org) has said: “Between 2009 and 2011, the latest year with available data, states collectively spent $20.4 billion annually to build new roadways and add lanes to existing roads …States spent just $16.5 billion annually repairing and preserving the other 99 percent of the system, even while roads across the country were deteriorating. … These spending decisions come with serious implications for DOT finances and taxpayers. In 2008, states would have needed to spend more than $43 billion every year for 20 years to bring roads in poor condition into a state of good repair while also maintaining their existing systems. By 2011, that figure increased to $45.2 billion per year-nearly three times the amount states currently spend on repair.”
For more information on Solar Roadways, visit their website at: http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml