Written by Hannah Arios, ESLLC 2015-2016
Solar Roadways, a startup company based in Idaho, is attempting to develop solar panels that would be installed on roads and sidewalks to collect the energy from the Sun. The company hopes to develop a smart highway, completely made up of these smart solar panels.
Solar roadways are a new way to collect solar energy to power residential areas, as well as public service buildings and industries. These roadways are sturdy enough to hold semi-trucks, meaning they won’t need to be replaced every 5 years. These solar panels are better than regular roads, and not just because they can collect renewable energy. The panels have heaters embedded into them, so if it snows, the heaters turn on to prevent snow and ice from accumulating on the roads. This way, driving with snowy conditions will be safer. The panels are also fitted with sensors that can alert drivers to the presence of large animals, like deer, on the road. This will hopefully decrease the amount of accidents that occur when visibility is low and save animals and people from being killed.
According to Scientific American, solar farms threaten avian species. Some bird species think the solar panels are bodies of water, so they land there only to be burned by the concentrated rays of the Sun. But with the solar roadways, there would be too much vehicle activity, especially on highways, for birds to land there. Hopefully that will prevent more deaths and ensure some species don’t go extinct. Usually there is a multitude of vegetation surrounding the solar farms, especially when the farms are placed in a large natural environment. There will be different plants surrounding the solar roads, but on the sidewalks, so it’ll be safe for birds to land there.
The hexagonal panels are also made up of either recycled materials or materials that are more sustainable to decrease the negative environmental effects. I think this is great because what’s the point of having these panels to help the environment if actually making the panels is detrimental to the environment.
Solar roadways are the key to limiting America’s dependence on foreign or domestic oil. The Netherlands has already implemented solar roadways, according to Extreme Tech. Popular Mechanics reports that France is planning to cover more than 600 miles of roads with solar panels. These solar roads will provide electricity for about 8% of France’s population, which is equivalent to 5 million people. If America can install these solar roadways on just highways, then we can stop being so dependent on non-renewable sources of energy, like coal and oil.