Potential of Solar Panel Roads
The global increase in population is leading to a bigger carbon footprint today. To protect the environment and help with global warming, the need for renewable energy is of utmost importance. Perhaps, it requires more collaborative approaches in removing the entire carbon footprint. However, startups are looking to extend the use of solar energy beyond home lighting solutions. The companies are focusing on using solar panel roads to contribute towards solving global warming while preventing road accidents, road lighting, snow, electricity, and clean water provisions with the offering. It sounds surreal, but some efforts have begun towards solar panel adoption for roads.
Issues with the Existing Road Infrastructure
In the current context, city planners question the requirement of new road infrastructure and how it reduces global warming challenges. The idea is simple; the current road projects are large projects to improve the economy and connectivity and improve citizens’ social aspects. Improved road infrastructure has more capacity, better pavements which lowers travel time and cost of vehicle maintenance and increases accessibility to various services like healthcare and education. However, road projects negatively impact health, the environment, and natural resources.
Most of the roads are made using asphalt that is typically produced using petroleum. It is a nonrenewable resource and at the same time results in carbon emission when burnt to be laid on the roads. Roads have continuous movement, including significant pollutants like gasoline or lubricating oil, vehicle exhaust, tire wear, and deicing operations. These factors result in oils, heavy metals, salts, and other harmful chemicals laid on the road surface. In the event of a storm of heavy rainfall or snow melting off the roads, these harmful factors wash off and mix with the nearing water bodies. The factors like tarmac can also impact the groundwater and sensitive plants and animals.
Solar Panel Roadways
Solar panel roadways have the potential to transform roadways and help to keep the environment safer and cleaner. These roads would be made partially with recyclable materials and partially with the relevant mechanisms required for solar surfaces. The idea behind this approach is that these surfaces can generate a tremendous amount of solar energy throughout the day. In this way, these surfaces become dual-purpose infrastructures of solar energy generation and, at the same time, act as a smart grid. Electric cars can charge at the relevant stations with the generated solar energy from the roads. Besides, the highways can be lit up with lights generated from the energy generated by the solar panel roads. These roads are safer considering heating the roads when required to clear snow covering with integrated LED screens. The screens can also have multi-utility as they can be used to act as street markers and display traffic and safety assistance information directly on the road.
Design of a Solar Panel Road
Solar Roadways, a US-based company, have provided the solar roadway design based on their prototypes. The top layer of these road surfaces must be made with high-strength and durable material that is rough enough to provide good traction for vehicles. The company has built a strong glass with a textured top that provides traction similarly to asphalt-based roads and can accommodate heavy-weight vehicles like trucks.
The middle layer is responsible for the solar panels and microprocessors for LED control and management for road lighting and traffic information display. The company states that the microprocessors provide the flexibility to include more features. These microprocessors can act as sensors and alert drivers about road conditions or provide warning signs on the road if an animal is crossing the street. At the same time, they can be used for quick notifications in case of panel damages. The microprocessors can also control the temperature of the road surfaces, and they can be effective in melting snow of the road surfaces in the winter.
Finally, the bottom layer is responsible for distributing power that the solar panel collects from the sun alongside the distribution of data signals. This layer is supposed to be the strongest and weatherproof to be able to protect the entire solar panel road.
Benefits of Solar Panel Roads
Solving the Power Line Issues
The disruption of the power lines has been a common cause during storms. The power lines are higher up on the poles and are more likely to be damaged from winds or snowfall, or storms. The poles are knocked down, and ice formation can cause breakage in the power lines resulting in unwanted outages. The power utility workers are needed to climb poles and repair, and there are incidents of severe injury to a few. Solar panel roads can tackle these problems with a constant power supply without any power outages as solar energy collected can be distributed well to maintain the power supply.
Most energy services are following a centralized approach. They provide the services from a central location through the transmission lines over significant distances. Such an approach can cause energy loss and are vulnerable to several threats, including damages from natural calamities. Solar panel roads can prove to be a decentralized source as they can act as the power source to distribute the energy across nearby places such as driveways can power homes, whereas parking lots can power enterprise facilities. Excess power that is stored by the solar panel roads can be used by neighborhoods either regularly or in the event of emergencies.
With more solar panel roads, fossil fuels will be preserved for the future, and the carbon emissions produced from building the tarmac will be significantly reduced. As there is only renewable energy used for solar roads, it benefits the environment and reduces pollution, making the air quality safer and cleaner to breathe.
The use of solar panel roads has several mechanisms like microprocessors and LED panels which offer the possibility of displaying safe driving information on the road. Additionally, well-lit roads are ensured with solar panels lighting the street lights. Road conditions information and animal crossing information can be displayed well for drivers to be alert, which reduces the risk of accidents. Besides, snow can be melted with optimum control of the road surface, which adds to the safety solutions for driving in the cities and highways.
The solar panel roads act as multi-utility solutions. The highways, city roads, sidewalks or pavements, parks, and all the green energy solutions like micro-mobility transportation can benefit in making cities cleaner with sustainable approaches. These solar panel roads can provide sufficient energy for the parking areas, public parks, and spaces or sidewalks for citizens to drive and walk safely. The micro-mobility solutions docks can have enough energy that is distributed from the solar panel roads. The cities will be well-lit up without dark spaces, which offers more safety. Electric vehicles can find more acceptance as charging these vehicles will be more accessible with solar driveways.
The Roads of Future
Solar panel roads are the solutions to address much of the challenges in terms of global warming and environmental changes that loom over us. These roads can change how renewable can be used to its maximum potential. Companies like Platio contribute primarily towards solar panel adoption across multiple urban spaces in cities to power businesses, homes, and marinas to step closer to intelligent cities. With faster and easier installation, high safety standards, durability, and maintenance, the solar panel roads are the future of tomorrow, leading to cleaner and sustainable living. Although numerous factors need to be addressed before its integration, this technology certainly holds importance and its contribution towards reducing global warming. Cities are already adopting solar panel road approaches as it is evident from the existing roads such as Wattway solar road in France, Solaroad in the Netherlands, and Jinan Solar highway in China. Solar panel roads are likely to play a crucial role in the future. While significant work has already begun and some have already adopted, the upcoming decade will witness the proper form of technological transformation in the form of solar panel roads that will revolutionize our lifestyles by maximizing the use of renewable energy.