Solar panels used as roads
A solar cell, or photovoltaic cell is an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect, which is a physical and chemical phenomenon.
It is a form of photoelectric cell, defined as a device whose electrical characteristics, such as current, voltage, or resistance, vary when exposed to light. Solar cells are the building blocks of photovoltaic modules, otherwise known as solar panels.
Solar Roadways Incorporated is an American company based in Sandpoint, Idaho aiming to develop solar powered road panels to form a smart highway. Their proof-of-concept technology combines a transparent driving surface with underlying solar cells, electronics and sensors to act as a solar array with programmable capability. The road panels are to be made from recycled materials and incorporate photovoltaic cell. The project has received criticism in regards to its feasibility.
The first public installation was in Jeff Jones Town Square in Sandpoint, Idaho. It opened to the public on September 30, 2016. As a pilot install it is for walkways only. This installation consists of 30 Solar Roadways SR3 panels covering an area of roughly 150 square feet.
In Solar Roadways the road surface consists of prefabricated panels with a surface of 1 centimetre (0.39 in) thick hardened glass. Beneath the glass solar cells are installed.
The world’s first has Solar Roadways opened in France
Tourouvre-au-Perche, a small town in northern France, opened what is likely the first road paved in solar panels in the world The road is roughly 1 km (0.6 miles) long, with one lane covered entirely in a patchwork of small solar cells that look rather like bathroom tiles, or a very dirty version of the road in the Wizard of Oz. The panels are coated in a special silicon film that helps protect them from the weight of trucks. The road will likely see around 2,000 vehicles a day, passing through the town of roughly 3,400 residents.
It’s the not the first paved solar-panel project in the world—that honor went to Dutch company SolaRoad in 2014 with its solar-powered bike path—but it’s possible that this road will suffer the same issues. SolaRoad’s bike path can generate roughly 3,000 kilowatt-hours of power, but the estimated cost of building it was equivalent to paying for 520,000 kilowatt-hours’ worth of power. France’s project was not cheap: The short stretch of roadway cost about €5 million ($5.2 million) to build. It may not prove to be the most cost-effective use of capital either. Solar panels are more efficient when they are tilted at an angle toward the Sun, rather than flat to the ground, and the road’s construction cost may well be greater than the amount of energy it can produce.
Wattway aims to lower the cost of installing paneled roads as it builds more of them, and although the cost-effectiveness is in question now, it’s a novel use of otherwise wasted space. Many buildings around the world are covering their roofs with solar panels, in an effort to cut down on energy costs: Apple’s new campus is awash in solar paneling, and is aiming to be a nearly self-sufficient building, and Elon Musk’s Tesla plans to bring shingle-shaped solar panels to homes around the world in the near future. Solar panels also grace trash cans, tents, and planes, so perhaps it won’t be that long before they’re ubiquitous enough on our infrastructure to drive costs further down.