Solar Roadways?


I wanted to take Greg’s idea of heated roads a step further to challenge Elon Musk to invent solar roadways and parking lots. These roads and parking lots would not just be able to make roads safer, but they would completely change our roads as we know them. Roads and especially parking lots are almost always exposed to the sun. What if we could figure out a way to turn this valuable sunlight to into energy? We would be able to make roads that could provide energy to the grid. Vast parking lots could cut down the energy used by the buildings and stores that built them. An electrical engineer and his counselor wife originally proposed this idea. However, without the money and resources, they have been slow to get their idea to work. Elon Musk’s expertise, creativity, and resources could help commercialize this innovative idea….

This idea is still in research and development; it is still trying to get enough donations in order to start testing. Musk could take over this idea and quickly use Tesla’s and SpaceX’s engineers and machinery to make this idea a reality (not to discredit the couple’s hardwork). Some of the proposed components of the solar roadway are pretty mind blowing. They could potentially do a lot more than heat up roads to melt the snow. The solar roadways could use LED’s embedded in the roadway to provide changeable signage. This could mean that roads could change to accommodate rush hour traffic by adding lanes to the busy side of the highway. They could warn drivers of accidents ahead or of conditions on the road ahead. If weight sensors were added to the roadways, the road could warn drivers of deer or other animals on the road ahead of them. The roadway could also be used to replace overhead and underground cables by becoming the new electricity grid. Most roads and parking lots lead directly to houses, buildings, and other commercial centers. This roadway could transfer the electricity to people’s homes and businesses, thus eliminating the need for overhead cables.

However, Musk has a lot of challenges ahead of him. Cost is his main problem despite what their promotion video says. They are very expensive and are not efficient enough to pay for themselves. With over 29,000 square miles of paved road in the US, the cost would be monumental to replace roads that are made with cheap asphalt. Asphalt main cost is manual labor for installation, which would be even more expensive for these roadways. Estimates from the couple put the cost of these roadways at about $10,000 for a 12 by 12 foot segment. The final cost would be somewhere around 50 trillion dollars. Money that is simply not attainable. Aside from finding the funds needed to create these roads, there are still a lot of issues with the idea. The solar panels and other components are wedged between thick high strength glasses. The durability of the roads has been questioned. Maintenance would be a monumental cost to replace damaged panels. The material of the roads also creates a great concern for safety. The road needs to have the same or better friction with tires than asphalt or it would make roads unsafe for cars. The idea is innovative but it has a lot of issues and does not seem efficient or feasible in the near future, even for Musk. I would think that starting with parking lots could be a way to test out the concept.

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3 thoughts on “Solar Roadways?”

  1. Roads would have to be closed off for a period of time to do this as well which would definitely be an inconvenience for people. You address a lot of issues that make this a daunting task to any innovator. I feel like this would have to be a government project.

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  2. How about you start with parking in higher density areas? That is already valuable real estate that needs other cost-offsetting. Plus, if we make parking more expensive, people will look for substitutes- fewer cars- better society.

    Maybe some forced investment would then push this down the cost curve.

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  3. I think Rafi’s point is interesting that roads would need to closed down and my first thought was how inferior our train infrastructure compared to Europe. We built our trains much earlier and not much has changed about them in a long time. It takes over an hour to get into Manhattan from where I live, but if trains found in Europe were available it would take less than half that time. However, nobody is willing to go through the hassle of building lines capable of handling it.

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