Will they work or not? It is an almost infatuating idea that you could replace all the asphalt in the world with solar panels. No more nuclear reactors, or burning fossil fuels for energy. Image we would only have electrical cars, and everyone would have access to cheap and clean energy. But is this a feasible idea?
In the US, the much debated couple Scott and Julie Brusaw have invented solar-powered LED roadways. These road panels work like ordinary solar panels, extracting energy from the sunlight it catches, but it has many more advantages. The LEDs in the panels can create road markings and warnings for drivers, for example when the pressure detectors record that an animal or other obstacle blocks the road. The panels are also heated, so snow and slippery surface from ice would be history. The necessary space under the roads for the electrical components also leave enough space for all other cable we need, such as internet cables. All of this and generating heaps of energy for example for electrical cars or households.
It sounds almost too good to be true and the idea has evoked loads of responses, both positive and negative ones. One of the most heard negative responses regards safety. People wonder if the traction of the glass tops of the solar road panels is good enough to meet the safety requirements. Also the storing of all the energy that is generated during the day is an issue, because the panels and the electricity grid also need energy at night. People also worry about the cost as it is much more expensive as asphalt, although the inventors claim it generates more money than it costs from the energy it collects. Solar roadways has held a successful crowd funding and is working hard to resolve all of these issues.
Meanwhile in Europe
On the other side of the world, SolaRoad in the Netherlands have actually build the first solar road. Fair enough, it is a bicycle lane so it has less safety issues as it would have if it would have a been a road for cars. A different technique is used, so for the time being, 'all' the road does is generate energy. The coating of the road did let go on a small part but has been repaired and the lane is in use again. It is a good experiment and time will tell if solar panels will be widely used in roads and solve our energy problem.