A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
You can get A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2 now at Gumroad
Page 1 of 10 12345678910 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 281
  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    California, United States
    Gender
    Male

    Lightbulb Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!


    http://igg.me/at/solarroadways/x

    I've heard from the "I f***ing love science" page on Facebook about this, and I'm really motivated to spread the word. It's an Indiegogo project sponsored by the United States Federal Highway Administration to pave parking lots, streets, roofs, side-walks, with solar panels.

    Finance

    They're solar panels. They'll practically pay for themselves in what electricity they'll produce in a public sector. It also requires no natural, non-renewable resource that needs import from other countries or labour costs to mine it out domestically. Not to mention the sun will keep powering them for a few billion years, so you don't need to worry about your kids' future with these things on hand.

    Mass production of these panels will require work. Glass workers, engineers, transporters, and road workers will definitely be needed for a project this size to be made country-wide, so I'm damn sure it'll create a job for you.

    And if you think about it, no-one would be dumb enough to steal a solar road panel if they could, since they're in massive quantities and providing power to them and others.

    Endurance
    Now, one might imagine that solar panels in their current state are fragile and will certainly crack and break under extreme pressure. WRONG. The solar panels are sealed with a tempered glass that are analogous to standard asphalt roads. Even better, the glass is recycled.

    Another problem with asphalt roadways is that they tend to crack and require re-paving and that means potholes and weeks of lane closing. In the event that a solar panel is damaged, a crew can simply unhook the solar panel and replace it with another one. How much time is that? Like, a few minutes under the road to disconnect it and fifteen seconds on the road to transport it? I wouldn't even honk my horn at them.

    Precipitation Efficiency
    Many would argue that precipitation would also reduce the effectiveness of the solar panels. WRONG. Solar panels work passively with a small element to keep their surface temperature a few degrees above freezing, melting the snow and continuing normal operations. Hail will not damage the panels either, using that tempered glass to prevent damages.

    Safety
    From the Indiegogo: "Our glass surface has been tested for traction, load testing, and impact resistance testing in civil engineering laboratories around the country, and exceeded all requirements." That's great, right? I have even better news for you.

    Solar roadways have smart sensors to detect any non-standard pressure from animals, humans, monsters, and large traffic accidents. The road will light up with warning signs to tell you to slow down, because you might hit somebody. Of course, it might be a little redundant, since another feature is low illumination that will light up the roads for all you living in fear of driving when it's super dark.

    "Cable Corridors"

    A super-sweet invention to go along with the solar roadway is a Cable Corridor. It's a two-part channel that runs concurrently with the roadways themselves. One end has electric cables, meaning power lines, data lines, fibre-optics, and high-speed Internet, replacing the need for telephone poles and hanging wires, so live wires and buried cables won't be a threat to people any more, and during storms, will be protected and won't cause power outages. The other end captures and filters precipitation such as melted snow and rain water and transports them to a treatment centre, removing pollution that would erode soil or poison animals.

    Public and Private Sectors

    In the public sector, one would obviously use solar roadways to power their own home for practically nothing. However, one could use a sports centre with solar panels to create their own LED configuration depending on what games they want to play. Kids' games, basketball, running track, all are possible here. The pressure sensitivity on the panels might also light up and make the games a little more aesthetically pleasing to play.

    In the private sector, one may use solar panel light configuration to manage a parking lot. One won't need to re-paint the lines every time the parking spaces change. Now handicapped spots, 15-minute parking, compact car parking, and Employee of the Month parking may be placed as the owner sees fit for no charge.

    Known Issues

    Experiments are not without their issues. Many sources on the Internet (see spoiler) have called out many problems with the solar roadways, and the company has released an update that provides a counter-argument and clarification of the product in its production and even how LEDs are clearly visible in broad daylight, providing examples. Link to the counter-arguments here.
    Spoiler: Examples of Arguments Against Solar Roadways
    Show
    Last edited by PallElendro; 2014-06-14 at 09:18 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Savage
    Remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Lord Torath's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Sharangar's Revenge
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    That looks pretty cool!

    I don't remember them mentioning anything about power storage. Was that addressed anywhere? Or are they just assuming we'll find somewhere to put the power until we need it?
    Warhammer 40,000 Campaign Skirmish Game: Warpstrike
    My Spelljammer stuff (including an orbit tracker), 2E AD&D spreadsheet, and Vault of the Drow maps are available in my Dropbox. Feel free to use or not use it as you see fit!
    Thri-Kreen Ranger/Psionicist by me, based off of Rich's A Monster for Every Season

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    GnomeWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Interesting.

    That said, I do have concerns about situations of durability of said solar roadways. Specifically, not all roads are flat. Especially in some locations, you have a considerable amount of elevation and turning. How do these solar roadways handle a hill? What is the tolerance of them flexing? More specifically, what happens to the joints between them when a 40-ton truck rolls over them at 45mph?

    Also, the idea of using solar panels to melt road ice seems a bit suspicious. Namely, around here, snow tends to fall at night and cover roads. Covered solar panels can't receive sunlight and so can't generate electricity to heat themselves. What is the solution? To run electricity to the roads at night to keep them above freezing? To run a snowplow over the solar panels, quite likely causing damage to them more extreme than they would to an asphalt road?

    And finally, what happens when water seeps down between the panels and freezes? See the question about changes in inclined surfaces, above.

    Still interesting, but I wonder if the questions have been answered yet. It still sounds like a definitely neat idea for flat parking lots and such.
    Quote Originally Posted by darthbobcat View Post
    There are no bad ideas, just bad execution.
    Spoiler
    Show
    Thank you to zimmerwald1915 for the Gustave avatar.
    The full set is here.



    Air Raccoon avatar provided by Ceika
    from the Request an OotS Style Avatar thread



    A big thanks to PrinceAquilaDei for the gryphon avatar!
    original image

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2012

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by PallElendro View Post
    And if you think about it, no-one would be dumb enough to steal a solar road panel if they could, since they're in massive quantities and providing power to them and others.
    You have too much faith in your fellow man.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    I don't remember them mentioning anything about power storage. Was that addressed anywhere? Or are they just assuming we'll find somewhere to put the power until we need it?
    Could just feed itself directly into the power grid...But then who profits from it?

    This is an interesting idea, but I have so many reservations. I can't stop seeing things that could go wrong.
    Last edited by Grinner; 2014-05-21 at 08:46 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Also, the idea of using solar panels to melt road ice seems a bit suspicious. Namely, around here, snow tends to fall at night and cover roads. Covered solar panels can't receive sunlight and so can't generate electricity to heat themselves. What is the solution? To run electricity to the roads at night to keep them above freezing? To run a snowplow over the solar panels, quite likely causing damage to them more extreme than they would to an asphalt road?

    And finally, what happens when water seeps down between the panels and freezes? See the question about changes in inclined surfaces, above.
    I think that's it exactly- the road surface never drops below 33 degrees farenheight, so freezing is never an issue. While this is a bit of a power drain overnight, you can put batteries under the tiles so that they charge in the day to stay warm at night. (alternatively, you replace pavement starting from the american south, so freezing is not an issue)

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Tail of the Bellcurve
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rakaydos View Post
    I think that's it exactly- the road surface never drops below 33 degrees farenheight, so freezing is never an issue. While this is a bit of a power drain overnight, you can put batteries under the tiles so that they charge in the day to stay warm at night. (alternatively, you replace pavement starting from the american south, so freezing is not an issue)
    That takes rather a lot of heating when it's -20 and blowing snow at 20 or 30 miles an hour. Or it just plain snows for a day or two straight. When this happens is also not a particularly good time of year for solar panels sitting flat on the ground either; the sun tends to be riding the horizon pretty tight, so the energy density at horizontal's pretty low.

    Mind, I think it's a splendid idea, and would be behind it 100% modulo those concerns. Actually I'm behind it 100% one way or the other; the worst that can happen is that every now and again some areas of the network stop producing for a while, and the parts of the country prone to such conditions would need backup for heat and power. It's still a massive step in the right direction.
    Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
    When they shot him down on the highway,
    Down like a dog on the highway,
    And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.


    Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman, 1906.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Lizardfolk

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    I think they would get covered in dirt pretty fast myself. I think the best intermediate step is to make covered parking lots and roof the covers with solar panels.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Melayl's Avatar

    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    In my own little world...
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    What about the issue of glare? It's glass, after all, and tends to be reflective. I can barely see due to glare issues when I drive by water next to the road. If the road itsself had glare, I wouldn't be able to drive safely...
    Custom Melayl avatar by my cousin, ~thejason10, used with his permission. See his work at his Deviant Art page.
    My works:
    Need help?
    Spoiler
    Show
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)
    1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24/7
    www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
    In Australia: Lifeline, 13 11 14, 24/7
    Reach Out Australia
    Beyond Blue, 1300 22 4636
    The Samaritans (UK too) UK: 08457 90 90 90, ROI: 1850 60 90 90

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    California, United States
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Regarding night snow:

    "We designed our panels so the heaters are driven by the grid and not by the solar cells - the systems are independent of one another. This is because the heaters and LEDs have to work at night, when the solar cells are incapable of producing power." --http://solarroadways.com/faq.shtml
    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Savage
    Remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    AgentPaper's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    This seems pretty dumb, for one simple reason: If you're going to mass-produce solar panels, why would you put them on roads? There's two parts to this: One is to mass produce solar panels to cut down on their price and make them into a viable power source. The second is to replace all roads with fancy new ones that self-heat, have replaceable panels, and sensors to help make them safer to drive.

    Both of these are good ideas. The first one has been around for a long time, and in fact is already happening. Companies are springing up all over that specialize in selling solar panels with a variety of pricing plans and setups. Panels are becoming increasingly affordable and profitable, and as they do, they'll become more and more widespread, which will make them cheaper, which makes them more profitable, etc. Making specialized road-tile panels won't help this any, and in fact is more likely to simply distract from normal solar panel development, slowing the process down.

    The second idea is a bit more original, but also a bit out-there as well, and it would basically come down to cost. If we can replace existing roads without a major investment, and save money in the long run, then great! But if it's a major investment, and/or it doesn't actually save money in the long run (costs the same or more to maintain compared to normal roads), then it's not going to happen. And, of course, if there's any hint of problems like panels coming loose or being more slippery and causing accidents, or glare, or being prone to vandalism, or if people have a reason to steal the panels, then it will never work either.

    More pressing, though, is that even if all of those bugs are worked out, there's still the fundamental issue of why you're putting solar panels on roads. Last I checked, there's quite a lot of open space around that we could stick solar panels in. Some of that is off-limits for environmental reasons, but there's still plenty of open space all over the country that nobody cares about and would work just fine to have a bunch of panels stuck in, just as soon as someone is willing to make that investment.

    And of course, you don't have to worry about those panels being covered in grime, oil, and, well, cars all day long, and they can be oriented to catch the sun or even track it if necessary, making them far more efficient than road panels and easier to maintain. And of course, if you don't have to replace your road panels just because they're dirty, that makes the road panel idea more viable as well.
    Excellent avatar by Elder Tsofu.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Troll in the Playground
     
    the_druid_droid's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    In a cornfield
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by erikun View Post
    Also, the idea of using solar panels to melt road ice seems a bit suspicious. Namely, around here, snow tends to fall at night and cover roads. Covered solar panels can't receive sunlight and so can't generate electricity to heat themselves. What is the solution? To run electricity to the roads at night to keep them above freezing? To run a snowplow over the solar panels, quite likely causing damage to them more extreme than they would to an asphalt road?
    Yeah, after what the plows did to the roads up here over the winter, I'd be really hesitant to put down glass. Even if it's tempered super-glass that acts like asphalt, you'll just end up with chunks of tempered super-glass in your tires...

    Quote Originally Posted by Grinner View Post
    You have too much faith in your fellow man.
    Sadly true. There are parts of the country *cough*Detroit*cough* where the wiring in the panels alone would be incentive enough to smash up the road and loot the electronics.

    Also, my concern would be one of coverage. Roads basically have a fractal dimension (so somewhere between 1 and 2) and once you factor in the efficiency of the panels and sunlight variations, I'm not really sure what the numbers look like for bottom-line power production, especially vs. a full solar farm at an optimally sunny location. Of course, that's really comparing to a hypothetical 2D solar array that takes up a comparable linear dimension, which is probably too big to ever actually exist. In the absence of a more detailed financial analysis, it's hard to say how things shake out for sure.

    The proposal also raises questions about how you enter the utility market. Governmental support would help you get coverage, but if it really seemed to stand a chance, I could see power companies lobbying against it pretty hard. If you went private, you could avoid that issue, but you'd have to rent or buy your road surface, and deal with power supply stability issues for consumers, etc.

    Ultimately, it's got some interesting ideas, but I don't know if the whole package is really going to be feasible at scale. All the same, some of the component ideas about recycling and data integration might have a future independent of the overall project, so I can't see it getting funded as a bad thing.
    This Machine Surrounds Hate And Forces It To Surrender

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    DD, your unicorn is stronger, prettier, and higher-ranking than mine, and her secret lab has a better name than mine. THERE SHALL BE NO QUARTER.
    Ponythread Learns to Draw!

    Spoiler
    Show
    Bleeeeh! Alfalfa Monster!


    Avatar by Aruius

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Manchester, UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    I just don't think this is practical. The amount of wear and tear this surface will get from having vehicles and people travelling over it will wear it out pretty fast, I reckon, no matter how tough the glass is, and then the cost of replacing the tiles becomes astronomical--like road repair doesn't cost enough as it is! I also wonder how having a glass surface will affect braking efficiency in the wet?

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Eldan's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Switzerland
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Wait. "Pay for themselves"? When did that happen? Until fairly recently, all the numbers I've seen said that, at least for temperate and colder climates, solar panels are barely bringing their cost back in before they have to be replaced. And I'm fairly certain there's still toxic waste involved.
    "In dark times, should the stars also go out?"

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Manchester, UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    And I'm fairly certain there's still toxic waste involved.
    Yes--they use stuff like hydrochloric acid (and worse) to clean the surface of the semiconductors in the solar panel, so these things are not entirely without environmental impact.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Aside from the concerns already mentioned, there is also the key problem with both solar and wind energy: they are not stable enough to ever contribute a significant percentage of overall electrical power. It is the most problematic with solar panels, which work only through the day and the power usage through the night doesn't drop accordingly. If there comes a cloudy day, you have even more problems to keep the power grid stable. Wheter we like it or not, we need conventional power sources as the base of electricity production.

    Also relevant: such a spike in solar panel usage might result in higher prices, since the most efficient cells are made from rather rare materials. Even silicon cells use various admixtures to achieve reasonable efficiencies.
    In a war it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Lord Torath's Avatar

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Sharangar's Revenge
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    It's always sunny somewhere. Okay, still not at night in the Americas, but if you get a grid that stretches from coast to coast, you can be assured of getting power somewhere. We could run on solar during the day, and other sources during the night. Just as it's always sunny somewhere, it's also always windy somewhere. So if your grid is interconnected enough, you can just move the power around.

    As for durability, if the tiles last long enough, they may be able to pay for themselves. And why not roads? They are everywhere, most of the time they can see the sky, and this way you don't need to dedicate otherwise-usable land for power generation. Think of all those miles of shoulder that see almost no use.

    Glare is definitely a real concern. I'm sure it will be addressed before things go too much farther if they haven't already done so.
    Warhammer 40,000 Campaign Skirmish Game: Warpstrike
    My Spelljammer stuff (including an orbit tracker), 2E AD&D spreadsheet, and Vault of the Drow maps are available in my Dropbox. Feel free to use or not use it as you see fit!
    Thri-Kreen Ranger/Psionicist by me, based off of Rich's A Monster for Every Season

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    It's always sunny somewhere. Okay, still not at night in the Americas, but if you get a grid that stretches from coast to coast, you can be assured of getting power somewhere. We could run on solar during the day, and other sources during the night. Just as it's always sunny somewhere, it's also always windy somewhere. So if your grid is interconnected enough, you can just move the power around.
    Things aren't as easy as they look:
    1. There are few sources of electricity you could just switch on and off like that. Usualy you use pumped-storage hydroelectricity to compensate for day/night differences in power use, but those can't be built everyware and you would need ridiculous ammount of such instalations to compensate.
    2. The grid is interconnected, but there are obvious limits on the ammount of power you can transfer from one coast to the other without overloading the grid and there will obviously be severe losses and fluctuations in voltage. The point is, you can't move the power around that much - not on this scale at least.
    In a war it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Manchester, UK
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    It's always sunny somewhere. Okay, still not at night in the Americas, but if you get a grid that stretches from coast to coast, you can be assured of getting power somewhere.
    Er, what? The USA may be large, but it's certainly not large enough that the sun is rising on the eastern seaboard at the same time as it's setting on the Pacific coast, which is the only way your statement would make sense. Not to mention that even if it *was* that large the inevitable losses involved in transmitting power more than 10,000 miles would make the arrangement totally impractical.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Max™'s Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Looking for the Xeelee
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    I'm baffled that anyone could think this is anything but an amazing idea, at least after having lived in the US and driven on many of the roads here.

    This is what the glass being discussed looks like btw:
    Spoiler
    Show


    Load testing numbers that can handle stuff like tank convoys, they had to back down from the aggressiveness of the traction pattern due to stripping the mechanism used to test skid resistance, the things could sense when it is being snowed on/cold and heat up then as needed, can be replaced piece by piece instead of tearing up whole sections of road to fix small sections.

    Want to know when I became an instant and complete fan?

    They intend to use as much pre-existing road surface as possible for foundations. Naturally some areas will need new foundations put down, but the fact that this isn't a "tear up the entire US road system and rebuild it" project, so much as an "analyze and where possible simply put down the necessary support systems and panels over existing roads" project.

    Yes they could be stolen, and apparently they are in wireless communication with other panels, so the road will know that you are hauling a panel in your trunk, exactly how fast you're going, where exactly you are, and how much your car weighs... among other details. Not exactly the smartest idea, kinda like going into a police station, grabbing a radio from a cop, then driving down the road updating them on your position constantly, isn't it?

    Really though, the point isn't to replace all power generation, it is to replace as much as possible with this stuff, not like the roadways do anything when they aren't being driven on, is it?

    Who here doesn't want nice, well maintained, intelligent, informative roadways, which can help power your home, car, and oh, just a a side effect, guarantee that we'll all have gigabit internet or better once they're installed?

    Yeah, being able to lay down the cable channels and run new fiber everywhere? That is one of those things which if you don't realize the implications, you might not really care much, but the only reason Google hasn't moved their Fiber thing everywhere is the lack of available fiber to carry it.

    Do you have gigabit internet right now?

    I don't.

    I'm broke as a joke or I'd love to support this, as it is the best idea I've ever heard regarding the road and highway system, on top of being something I've often wondered about, dumb concrete and asphalt is a crap way to do transport infrastructure.
    Engraved here is a rendition of an image of the Dwarf Fortress learning curve. All craftsdwarfship is of the highest quality. It depicts an obsidian overhang which menaces with spikes of obsidian and tears. Carved on the overhang is an image of Toady One and the players. The players are curled up in a fetal position. Toady One is laughing. The players are burning.
    ᴛʜɪs ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ᴀ sɪɢɴᴀᴛᴜʀᴇ.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Colossus in the Playground
     
    Eldan's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Switzerland
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    The idea is nice in theory, but solar power still has a lot of environmental concerns associated with it. If they manage to make solar cells that don't require tons of poisonous crap (that is often mined in frankly terrible ways) and don't require a ton of power to make, then sure, I'm all for it. If the power grid can actually handle it.

    That's one of the main problems with solar power, really. They only produce during the day, but people need a lot of power during the night. So you need expensive, dirty batteries to store it.
    "In dark times, should the stars also go out?"

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    1. As was said, the same panels could be used way more effectively in a typical solar power plant model: proping them perpendicular to the sunlight with a simple tracking mechanism, keeping the surface clean instead of dusted or mudded (as would be the case on the roads), not needing to make the whole thing extra durable (which means cheaper panels) and so on and so forth.

    2. Any thief worth his salt would disable the wifi or even keep it running in the place, where the solar panel should be. At any rate, you are again ramping up the costs of creating those solar panels for little gain in their safety, while you could perfectly well build panels big enough to be impractical to steal.

    3. The prospect of laying optical fibers along the new powerlines is nice, but you could do it even now and you don't need to attach anything as costly as solar panel roads to the project.

    In summary: yes, those panels would work, but they are too pricey and there are way more effective and cheaper ways to use them. The only advantage, they might have over typical power plants is the space usage, but USA is one of those countries, that has unused land in abundance, so not an issue. The project might have more merit in densly packed countries, but even there it would be more effective to make solar panel roofs first. In a way it's a nice project for a truly post-scarcity society, but I don't think, we are there yet.

    And concrate or asphalt might be dumb, but it's stupidly cheap in comparison, so it will stay with us for quite a while. Plus, long-range mass transport should be done by rail anyway, if you are concern with energy efficiency.
    Last edited by Radar; 2014-05-23 at 08:38 AM.
    In a war it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Max™'s Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Looking for the Xeelee
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar View Post
    1. As was said, the same panels could be used way more effectively in a typical solar power plant model: proping them perpendicular to the sunlight with a simple tracking mechanism, keeping the surface clean instead of dusted or mudded (as would be the case on the roads), not needing to make the whole thing extra durable (which means cheaper panels) and so on and so forth.
    Only the glass top portion has to be super durable, the electronics inside are fairly ordinary.

    2. Any thief worth his salt would disable the wifi or even keep it running in the place, where the solar panel should be. At any rate, you are again ramping up the costs of creating those solar panels for little gain in their safety, while you could perfectly well build panels big enough to be impractical to steal.
    Did you see one of the panels?

    Spoiler
    Show

    They're ~110 lbs, about 6 inches deep, close to three feet across, and fastened down.

    So you need to go out, get the right tools, remove the connections keeping it down, crack open the case, remove the wifi, put it back in place, then haul over 100 lbs somewhere, all while hoping nobody was smart enough to include things like the obvious sort of anti-tamper mechanisms which would detect any of those steps... all so you can do what, try to find someone willing to buy something which probably put a severe crimp in any market for stuff like solar panels on whatever sort of market you might hope to find anyways?

    How often do people go up and steal cameras and streetlights and traffic signals?

    How many of those are power generating units with internal status checking mechanisms and location awareness that are bolted to the ground and weigh over a hundred pounds?

    Yeah, I'm not saying it will never happen, but I'll say it won't be easy, and it won't be profitable... so you're assuming that criminals smart enough to do it will exist, yet be stupid enough to actually do it?

    I'm ok with those odds.

    3. The prospect of laying optical fibers along the new powerlines is nice, but you could do it even now and you don't need to attach anything as costly as solar panel roads to the project.
    They will generate electricity and can thus pay their own costs back, and keep producing electricity which... yep, people pay for.

    Laying fiber is HARDER than doing this, you often have to lift up sections of road/sidewalk anyways, then replace said sections, dig around pipes, and generally you aren't going to get money back from the actual fibers... someone else who is using them will have to do that.

    The fiber/gigabit is a SIDE EFFECT of the solar roadway project.

    In summary: yes, those panels would work, but they are too pricey and there are way more effective and cheaper ways to use them. The only advantage, they might have over typical power plants is the space usage, but USA is one of those countries, that has unused land in abundance, so not an issue. The project might have more merit in densly packed countries, but even there it would be more effective to make solar panel roofs first. In a way it's a nice project for a truly post-scarcity society, but I don't think, we are there yet.
    We have old, old, old, old electricity and information infrastructures, and an old transport infrastructure.

    Most of these could be put down directly on existing roadways to use them as a foundation, and in the process we would update and vastly improve the quality of our roads, the electricity grid, AND be able to update all of the cable/fiber we use to haul stuff like this post around... and you're seeing it as being too costly?

    This is something we have to do anyways. How much does it cost to block off a section of road, dig it up, clean up the mess, lay down more asphalt/concrete, repaint it, and patch/maintain it?

    How much does it cost to install telephone poles, those massive high tension towers, dig trenches for underground cable systems, string the relevant wiring/plumbing/whatnot through them, and then maintain them?

    How much do we spend fixing downed lines after thunderstorms/ice/tornadoes/hurricanes?

    How much do we spend trying to update our frankly pathetic internet infrastructure?

    How much do we spend on wasted electricity due to transport and conversion losses?

    How much do we spend on switching stations because you can't send the necessary amount of data through the pre-existing wires beyond a certain distance at the needed rates?

    How much electricity do roads, powerlines, and buried cables generate right now?

    How much electricity does your driveway supply to your house?

    How much electricity does any electric car get from the roadway right now?

    How much do we spend on cleaning ice and snow off of roads, dealing with accidents, or heck just scraping roadkill up?

    I'd be willing to bet that it is less than the initial investment required to get these in place, and I'm absolutely certain that the long term costs are VASTLY higher... since these would be generating electricity and replacing all of those maintenance costs/needs at the same time.

    And concrate or asphalt might be dumb, but it's stupidly cheap in comparison, so it will stay with us for quite a while. Plus, long-range mass transport should be done by rail anyway, if you are concern with energy efficiency.
    The concrete and asphalt would stay with these, where it belongs: being a sturdy foundation for a modern roadway suited for a modern society with modern needs.

    This is in no way a "maybe in a post scarcity society" type of thing, this is a step towards that.

    You're acting like we don't have to spend anything on roads/electricity/power and information transport infrastructure as it is.

    I mean, we don't HAVE to, but that's why we're in the crappy situation we are now, with brownouts/blackouts/service losses/potholes/traffic jams/etc.

    Edit: for the record, I'm kind of not at all concerned about the whole "CO2 is gonna doom us all" thing, as physics simply doesn't work the same way out here as it apparently does in climate models, so there is nothing in my thinking this is a fantastic idea related to some "we have to save the world from ourselves" nonsense. It's just awareness that we have a lot of roads in crap condition and a lot of wooden towers with wires hanging from them in crap condition which we could begin immediately replacing and UPGRADING with this stuff, and hey, if it gets people to shut up about the whole "a component of the atmosphere which is essential for life and that we are all emitting regularly is actually the control lever of a nonsensical positive feedback system of DOOM" stuff, all the better!
    Last edited by Max™; 2014-05-23 at 09:47 AM.
    Engraved here is a rendition of an image of the Dwarf Fortress learning curve. All craftsdwarfship is of the highest quality. It depicts an obsidian overhang which menaces with spikes of obsidian and tears. Carved on the overhang is an image of Toady One and the players. The players are curled up in a fetal position. Toady One is laughing. The players are burning.
    ᴛʜɪs ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ᴀ sɪɢɴᴀᴛᴜʀᴇ.

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    GnomeWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    This is what the glass being discussed looks like btw:
    Spoiler
    Show
    Glass is, in general, not a fragile substance. Despite the assumption based on window frames, glass is generally thick and quite durable. It is hard to break outside a sharp blow, and resists damage quite well.

    The problem is WHEN that sharp blow happens, and when the glass does break. And it will be a question of when, not if - no substance is immune to breakage. Fractured glass is understandably sharp and will cause problems when it happens to be a road, even more than just potholes. It is also far less malleable than asphalt, meaning that putting solar panels over hilly areas brings up further questions about the durability of the joint system.

    It should also bring up the question about long stretches of roads in states like, say, North Dakota. Sure, someone stealing parts of the roadway are unlikely in Detroit, but how heavily do you want to police all the roadways in a mostly empty state to be sure that people aren't stealing parts of it?
    Last edited by erikun; 2014-05-23 at 11:28 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by darthbobcat View Post
    There are no bad ideas, just bad execution.
    Spoiler
    Show
    Thank you to zimmerwald1915 for the Gustave avatar.
    The full set is here.



    Air Raccoon avatar provided by Ceika
    from the Request an OotS Style Avatar thread



    A big thanks to PrinceAquilaDei for the gryphon avatar!
    original image

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    Only the glass top portion has to be super durable, the electronics inside are fairly ordinary.
    Which in itself makes the panels significantly pricier - high quality glass isn't cheap and you need it to be durable, transparent and providing good traction all at the same time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    Did you see one of the panels?

    Spoiler
    Show

    They're ~110 lbs, about 6 inches deep, close to three feet across, and fastened down.

    So you need to go out, get the right tools, remove the connections keeping it down, crack open the case, remove the wifi, put it back in place, then haul over 100 lbs somewhere, all while hoping nobody was smart enough to include things like the obvious sort of anti-tamper mechanisms which would detect any of those steps... all so you can do what, try to find someone willing to buy something which probably put a severe crimp in any market for stuff like solar panels on whatever sort of market you might hope to find anyways?
    This wasn't the main problem with the idea anyway, but adding those anti-tampering mechanism and wifi will again add to the overall cost and on that scale every single cent per unit counts. Besides, this picture shows another technical problem: gaps between panels. This is a big no-no on highways or even regular roads, since it would generate hidious vibrations in the cars. Asphalt can take some temperature-induced streaching without problems, but stiffer materials require dilatations, which is something you don't want to see on the roads. Additionally, it is immensly difficult to ley a brick road idealy flat - alligning the panels would be a real pain. In comparison, making a flat asphalt road is cake-walk and thusly cheap. Any road material suitable for higher speeds pretty much needs to be malleable. For the lifespan of roads it is also important to account for the impact of vibrations on both the outer surface and the foundation. Asphalt works as a dampener, hard glass not very much so and if you add some dedicated elastic layer to shield the foundation, it will wear out at least as quickly as asphalt and it will cause the solar bricks to missallign.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    Yeah, I'm not saying it will never happen, but I'll say it won't be easy, and it won't be profitable... so you're assuming that criminals smart enough to do it will exist, yet be stupid enough to actually do it?
    You don't know the creativity people can pour into a patently stupid plan.

    But I digress:
    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    They will generate electricity and can thus pay their own costs back, and keep producing electricity which... yep, people pay for.
    Not quite, since solar cells have a limited lifespan. If you add up the relatively high production costs, then even the dedicated solar plants aren't that profitable. With the solar roads, you are sacrificing the efficiency of the solar panels significantly (by almost a quarter from the lack of tilt alone), which translates to a higher price per kWh produced. As it is, solar energy is one of the most costly sources, so the road won't pay for itself - not even close.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    Laying fiber is HARDER than doing this, you often have to lift up sections of road/sidewalk anyways, then replace said sections, dig around pipes, and generally you aren't going to get money back from the actual fibers... someone else who is using them will have to do that.

    The fiber/gigabit is a SIDE EFFECT of the solar roadway project.
    Maybe in cities you need to go under the sidewalk or the road to lay cables, but outside of those, you can easily lay cable near the road (or in a completly different direction for that matter) without ever disturbing the car flow or doing complicated ground work. I'd also like to point out, that leying those solar bricks is not as easy, as it looks. You can't just put them on existing roads and expect those roads to perform properly. To make it work, you would need to strip the road and build a foundation dedicated for such outer layer. Some other technical problems were mentioned above and there surely be more of those to come.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    We have old, old, old, old electricity and information infrastructures, and an old transport infrastructure.

    Most of these could be put down directly on existing roadways to use them as a foundation, and in the process we would update and vastly improve the quality of our roads, the electricity grid, AND be able to update all of the cable/fiber we use to haul stuff like this post around... and you're seeing it as being too costly?

    This is something we have to do anyways. How much does it cost to block off a section of road, dig it up, clean up the mess, lay down more asphalt/concrete, repaint it, and patch/maintain it?
    1. It would be way, way cheaper to forego the solar roads, build regular solar plants instead and update the infrastructure. We would even generate more electricity that way and have roads, that are better suited for higher speeds.

    2. Maintaining current roads would be way cheaper then those with solar bricks - there is a reason you don't see many brick roads today and I might add that stone bricks are cheaper then solar panels.

    3. Yes it would be too costly, since you would add the cost of solar panels and complicated roadbuilding techniques on top of those necessary works.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much does it cost to install telephone poles, those massive high tension towers, dig trenches for underground cable systems, string the relevant wiring/plumbing/whatnot through them, and then maintain them?
    You need all of those anyway, so the solar roads don't provide any advantage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much do we spend fixing downed lines after thunderstorms/ice/tornadoes/hurricanes?
    The same ammount you would after leying the solar roads, since high-power electricity cables pretty much need to go through the air. There is little you can do to prevent such damages.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much do we spend trying to update our frankly pathetic internet infrastructure?
    Which necessitates additional costs how? It rather convinces me to pour more money directly into the internet infrastructure instead of the solar roads.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much do we spend on wasted electricity due to transport and conversion losses?
    Frankly, less then we would, if we relied more on solar power for reasons already given in this thread. Again, solar roads don't do anything to solve this particular problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much electricity do roads, powerlines, and buried cables generate right now?
    Neither power lines, nor any other cables will ever produce electricity. As for the roads, it was already explained, why it would be better to build regular solar plants instead.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much electricity does your driveway supply to your house?
    None, and it's again far more efficient to put the solar panels on the roof, where they can be placed perpendicular to the sunlight and don't need to whitstand high mechanical stress and abrasion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much electricity does any electric car get from the roadway right now?
    Again: solar plant > solar road.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    How much do we spend on cleaning ice and snow off of roads, dealing with accidents, or heck just scraping roadkill up?
    1. Cleaning the ice the way we do now is immensly cheaper then heating the roads - you might not fully realise, how expensive that would be. Furhtermore, it would be needed in the time, when the solar panels would be least effective, so you need even more conventional power plants then today to compensate.

    2. Solar roads won't do anything to stop accidents or roadkills, so this is irrelevant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    I'd be willing to bet that it is less than the initial investment required to get these in place, and I'm absolutely certain that the long term costs are VASTLY higher... since these would be generating electricity and replacing all of those maintenance costs/needs at the same time.
    1. It won't replace the maintaince cost and I don't see, how anything could. Even if the solar panels could whitstand mechanical stress for many decades, that doesn't mean the foundation could. Keep also in mind, that even slight missallignment of the solar bricks will create sharp bumps on the road, which in turn makes the road at least highly uncomfortable and dangerous at worst.

    2. Again, using those panels in a regular solar plant would give much higher returns.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    This is in no way a "maybe in a post scarcity society" type of thing, this is a step towards that.
    How is using our scarce resources inefficiently a step in that direction?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    You're acting like we don't have to spend anything on roads/electricity/power and information transport infrastructure as it is.
    No, I'm just saying that solar roads don't wave those costs away and are adding a few additional costs on top of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    I mean, we don't HAVE to, but that's why we're in the crappy situation we are now, with brownouts/blackouts/service losses/potholes/traffic jams/etc.
    That doesn't mean that solar roads would solve those problems and it's even less likely that they are the best solution.
    In a war it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Troll in the Playground
     
    the_druid_droid's Avatar

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    In a cornfield
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    So, just to clarify before I start talking about this again, I do think components of this plan are interesting and valuable. In particular, I agree that increasing integration and overall improvement of various public utilities (roads, power transport, data, etc.) is an important goal. My caveat is that I'm not sure this particular approach is going to be workable at scale, for a host of reasons.

    First off, and relevant to the discussion on crime - MDOT Page. When I'm talking about someone stealing these things, I'm not thinking of a guy who wants aftermarket solar panels; I'm thinking of someone who's going in with a jackhammer for smash-and-grab on the raw materials to be sold for scrap. Because people actually do that in some places; in fact, there's another case in Detroit where a woman who was hospitalized for a couple of weeks came home to find her house half torn apart and left unlivable by looters looking for scrap aluminum and copper. Admittedly, Detroit is a badly broken city, but just because people don't go around stealing public utility infrastructure in one neighborhood doesn't mean it can't happen anywhere.

    Second point - this proposal doesn't end maintenance costs. Even assuming you get rid of the road painters and possibly plowers, you still have to keep up all the other maintenance you would do on the power lines, fiber connection, and basic road care (including making sure accumulated oil, dirt, etc. doesn't kill your efficiency). That, combined with the increased price of materials relative to 'dumb' construction methods means you're starting out in the hole, even if you base things off existing infrastructure.

    Third - actual power generation. The only numbers I could find on this were in a third-party article, and even there information was vague. What I saw quoted was that the test lot generated 3600 watts. Assuming that lot is around football field size (so 100x300 ft or so) and being charitable and giving them that figure as consistent rather than peak production, you still need about 1000 ft. of road to generate a single house's daily power consumption. That's before you get into commercial and industrial power requirements. Now it's true that 1000 ft. isn't very far to transmit power, but the problem is density. If a neighborhood has 100 houses, then someone's getting their power from up to 20 miles away, and if there's anything else that requires power in that 20 mile radius, the problem just keeps growing.

    It's true that those numbers mean we could supplement the existing grid, rather than replace it, but then you get into the question of how to apportion the power. The problem is that roads are generally publicly funded, and utilities are a mishmash of private, community and government-subsidized interests. If you mix all that together, you face a nightmare of deciding if people pay, how much they pay, who they pay, whether or not they can buy out other people, and so on. Coupled with the current political climate on using taxpayer dollars, it's a recipe for not making progress very fast.

    The alternative here would be to go completely private, but then you've got to negotiate road ownership from the government, which is usually at state level at best (for non-Interstate roads), so you'd have to renegotiate any time you crossed state lines, and in some places possibly even county lines. Also, as a private corporation you'd really have to make the case that you can make enough power to pay off your investment, and with the density argument above, I'm skeptical you could find and keep enough venture capital to survive long enough to see your business turn a profit, if it's even capable of doing so.

    Which brings me to the final point - these guys had government grants to do this research, and they even got renewed once, which to me implies that this project looks very good and has a lot of promise... right up to the point where it breaks down. So the question we really need to ask is: why are they looking for crowd funding now? It's true that good and workable ideas sometimes lose support from funding agencies, but if this project could really do all they're claiming, it would be a sucker bet not to back it. So what did the reviewers on their grant applications see that we're not getting in the (admittedly eye-catching) Indiegogo proposal? It's really this last point, coupled with the lack of much proffered financial (or even engineering, beyond material durability) analysis that raises a red flag for me.

    To bookend all this, I'll reiterate that I do think there are some good ideas packaged in the Solar Roadways project. But I suspect that it will ultimately be more profitable and beneficial to pursue them independently of the solar power generation aspect which appears to be the crux of the proposal.
    Last edited by the_druid_droid; 2014-05-23 at 01:37 PM.
    This Machine Surrounds Hate And Forces It To Surrender

    Quote Originally Posted by Anarion View Post
    DD, your unicorn is stronger, prettier, and higher-ranking than mine, and her secret lab has a better name than mine. THERE SHALL BE NO QUARTER.
    Ponythread Learns to Draw!

    Spoiler
    Show
    Bleeeeh! Alfalfa Monster!


    Avatar by Aruius

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Titan in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    UTC -6

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar View Post
    With the solar roads, you are sacrificing the efficiency of the solar panels significantly (by almost a quarter from the lack of tilt alone),
    Other things that hurt the efficiency of a solar road:
    • The glass. You're protecting the electronics, but the glass by its nature limits the light entering the cell itself.
    • Cars. The purpose of a road is to be driven on. The ideal state of a solar cell is to be not covered up. On a rural interstate it won't be so bad, but the primary nature of the road is limiting its secondary nature as a solar cell.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Ravens_cry's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2008

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Knight View Post
    Other things that hurt the efficiency of a solar road:
    • The glass. You're protecting the electronics, but the glass by its nature limits the light entering the cell itself.
    While a valid point, I think the idea here is to go for quantity over quality. It's true it's not as efficient as dedicated solar cells, it's a potentially huge amount of surface. Piezoelectrical generators could also provide some power as well, and that would work even if the roads are covered in snow.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Knight
    • Cars. The purpose of a road is to be driven on. The ideal state of a solar cell is to be not covered up. On a rural interstate it won't be so bad, but the primary nature of the road is limiting its secondary nature as a solar cell.
    True, but unless you are in a bumper to bumper traffic, which is far from typical road conditions on highways and freeways, the vast majority of the surface is clear.
    Last edited by Ravens_cry; 2014-05-23 at 01:47 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Calanon View Post
    Raven_Cry's comments often have the effects of a +5 Tome of Understanding

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Max™'s Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Looking for the Xeelee
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by the_druid_droid View Post
    So, just to clarify before I start talking about this again, I do think components of this plan are interesting and valuable. In particular, I agree that increasing integration and overall improvement of various public utilities (roads, power transport, data, etc.) is an important goal. My caveat is that I'm not sure this particular approach is going to be workable at scale, for a host of reasons.

    First off, and relevant to the discussion on crime - MDOT Page. When I'm talking about someone stealing these things, I'm not thinking of a guy who wants aftermarket solar panels; I'm thinking of someone who's going in with a jackhammer for smash-and-grab on the raw materials to be sold for scrap. Because people actually do that in some places; in fact, there's another case in Detroit where a woman who was hospitalized for a couple of weeks came home to find her house half torn apart and left unlivable by looters looking for scrap aluminum and copper. Admittedly, Detroit is a badly broken city, but just because people don't go around stealing public utility infrastructure in one neighborhood doesn't mean it can't happen anywhere.
    Like I said, yeah, it would happen I'm sure, but we're also talking about a system which is designed to detect things like animals walking across it, the idea that there would be a way to remove sections of this system without it noticing, disassemble them quickly enough to not have to deal with the known self-tracking capabilities, and then find a way to profit from it, that's where it feels like a stretch.

    There are lots of things which are easier to do for money if you're not concerned about legality, trying to tear up an intelligent roadway with overdesigned components capable of handling tank treads and self-monitoring/tracking capabilities is pretty far down the list, the idea that this would happen enough to actually make it more trouble than it is worth is a bit out there.

    Hell, that would be good news to me, it would mean that all other criminal opportunities were probably eliminated, wouldn't it?

    Stripping an abandoned house for copper is easy, houses are made of soft squishy stuff like wood and plaster and mortared together bricks generally, not the best example to support the idea that crime will really be a big problem.
    Second point - this proposal doesn't end maintenance costs. Even assuming you get rid of the road painters and possibly plowers, you still have to keep up all the other maintenance you would do on the power lines, fiber connection, and basic road care (including making sure accumulated oil, dirt, etc. doesn't kill your efficiency). That, combined with the increased price of materials relative to 'dumb' construction methods means you're starting out in the hole, even if you base things off existing infrastructure.
    I didn't say it ends maintenance, just that it ends certain types of maintenance needs, while also providing a broad upgrade to multiple systems which badly need it, AND allowing a more distributed approach to power transport/internet service delivery/etc.

    You're replacing multiple required types of maintenance, and multiple types of infrastructure upgrade procedures, with a procedure involving a single worker with the right tools and maybe a jack/lift to remove/replace damaged panels for maintenance, and the actual upgrade procedure is mostly a matter of transporting the panels to the site and getting the cable channels set up.

    Plus, as has been said many times, this is a system which will be generating electricity, which people are known to pay for.

    Third - actual power generation. The only numbers I could find on this were in a third-party article, and even there information was vague. What I saw quoted was that the test lot generated 3600 watts. Assuming that lot is around football field size (so 100x300 ft or so) and being charitable and giving them that figure as consistent rather than peak production, you still need about 1000 ft. of road to generate a single house's daily power consumption. That's before you get into commercial and industrial power requirements. Now it's true that 1000 ft. isn't very far to transmit power, but the problem is density. If a neighborhood has 100 houses, then someone's getting their power from up to 20 miles away, and if there's anything else that requires power in that 20 mile radius, the problem just keeps growing.
    The test lot was that little area by the shed, the values they worked out with the power they generated during January and February in Idaho would work out to 13 Trillion Kilowatt/hours per year if the US road system were fully upgraded with these, but as I recall they were doing the calculation assuming four hours of direct sunlight per day.

    It's true that those numbers mean we could supplement the existing grid, rather than replace it, but then you get into the question of how to apportion the power. The problem is that roads are generally publicly funded, and utilities are a mishmash of private, community and government-subsidized interests. If you mix all that together, you face a nightmare of deciding if people pay, how much they pay, who they pay, whether or not they can buy out other people, and so on. Coupled with the current political climate on using taxpayer dollars, it's a recipe for not making progress very fast.
    The numbers are like 3 times current US energy use, as I recall, working off of the values they measured during the winter in Idaho.

    Interestingly they noted that headlights produced a noticeable amount of electricity, though nothing amazing, but there is also talk of piezoelectric systems to keep in mind.

    Oh, and that's going off of current widely available panels at ~18% efficiency, and naturally that tech can be ugpraded as things go along.

    The alternative here would be to go completely private, but then you've got to negotiate road ownership from the government, which is usually at state level at best (for non-Interstate roads), so you'd have to renegotiate any time you crossed state lines, and in some places possibly even county lines. Also, as a private corporation you'd really have to make the case that you can make enough power to pay off your investment, and with the density argument above, I'm skeptical you could find and keep enough venture capital to survive long enough to see your business turn a profit, if it's even capable of doing so.
    Remember that the energy density you were working with was a HUGE ENORMOUS underestimate, the lot was nowhere near football field sized, in Idaho, during the winter.

    Which brings me to the final point - these guys had government grants to do this research, and they even got renewed once, which to me implies that this project looks very good and has a lot of promise... right up to the point where it breaks down. So the question we really need to ask is: why are they looking for crowd funding now? It's true that good and workable ideas sometimes lose support from funding agencies, but if this project could really do all they're claiming, it would be a sucker bet not to back it. So what did the reviewers on their grant applications see that we're not getting in the (admittedly eye-catching) Indiegogo proposal? It's really this last point, coupled with the lack of much proffered financial (or even engineering, beyond material durability) analysis that raises a red flag for me.
    Freedom to go forward without having to make a stock offering/become beholden to stock-holders/risk losing control over things like securing manufacturing so it takes place here, etc.

    To bookend all this, I'll reiterate that I do think there are some good ideas packaged in the Solar Roadways project. But I suspect that it will ultimately be more profitable and beneficial to pursue them independently of the solar power generation aspect which appears to be the crux of the proposal.
    Eh, the power generation is a nice bonus, but having smart roadways with the cable channel alone WOULD be nice.

    Though, at that point you are losing out on having them generate power/be certain to pay off the costs.

    It isn't like anyone seriously thinks developing/installing/maintaining a system which is able to deliver electricity/cable/gigabit internet directly to your home/driveway/parkinglot would be unable to a profit, do they?

    Oh, there are also compounds which can be applied that cause oil/grease to ball up into dust and get swept away by the air from vehicles going past, and you can replace things like snowplows with street sweeper type systems if it is needed, but a slight grade and the right materials make it a lot easier to keep it clean enough to generate a lot of electricity than you might think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar View Post
    Which in itself makes the panels significantly pricier - high quality glass isn't cheap and you need it to be durable, transparent and providing good traction all at the same time.
    Glass, as said above, isn't a simple class of materials, they note that they almost hate to call it glass, but that is what it is.
    The stuff they have was tested with weight loads of 250k lbs and they had to tone down the traction designs as they were too aggressive.
    This wasn't the main problem with the idea anyway, but adding those anti-tampering mechanism and wifi will again add to the overall cost and on that scale every single cent per unit counts. Besides, this picture shows another technical problem: gaps between panels.
    The anti-tamper mechanisms are part of the design already, the idea was to have a road that lets you know when it needs maintenance, and can respond to different situations on the fly. Having a panel go black or get up and start walking around, or lose contact with the solar cell/internal energy store/transmission/etc would fall under "activate a maintenance flag", and should cover anything involving trying to steal them as well.
    Not quite, since solar cells have a limited lifespan. If you add up the relatively high production costs, then even the dedicated solar plants aren't that profitable. With the solar roads, you are sacrificing the efficiency of the solar panels significantly (by almost a quarter from the lack of tilt alone), which translates to a higher price per kWh produced. As it is, solar energy is one of the most costly sources, so the road won't pay for itself - not even close.
    Using values taking into account a 31% reduction due to being horizontal and an 11% reduction due to the glass, for four hours a day in Idaho they get 13 Trillion Kilowatt/hours for the US, and 2009 usage was ~3.7 Trillion Kilowatt/hours for the US.

    Naturally there would probably be better results in southern states.

    They said they're designing the panels to last 20 years, and solar cells near the end of their lifespan after 30 years, btw.

    Maybe in cities you need to go under the sidewalk or the road to lay cables, but outside of those, you can easily lay cable near the road (or in a completly different direction for that matter) without ever disturbing the car flow or doing complicated ground work. I'd also like to point out, that leying those solar bricks is not as easy, as it looks. You can't just put them on existing roads and expect those roads to perform properly. To make it work, you would need to strip the road and build a foundation dedicated for such outer layer. Some other technical problems were mentioned above and there surely be more of those to come.
    According to civil engineers they discussed this with, the most efficient way would be to simply use the existing roads/sidewalks/driveways/parking lots/etc as foundations and build on top of them, recycling them where necessary, but if several civil/structural engineers have recommended using existing surfaces, I'm inclined to think they probably know what they're talking about. Engineering tends to have very harsh critics due to the whole "you never notice it unless someone didn't do their job and things fail... potentially catastrophically" nature of the work.
    1. It would be way, way cheaper to forego the solar roads, build regular solar plants instead and update the infrastructure. We would even generate more electricity that way and have roads, that are better suited for higher speeds.
    These are exactly as suited for high speed road travel as any other material you may want to use, except they are easier to identify maintenance issues, can adapt to different situations on the fly, and don't have to freeze or be plowed.... so

    Oh, and it would take a lot of plants to generate more than 13 Trillion Kilowatt/hours per year, considering a modern high end solar plant like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topaz_Solar_Farm should put out 1 Gigawatt/hour per year, take up 640 Acres, and cost ~$2 billion, that would take ~13 million of those plants to get the same capacity... though there are only room for 3.7 million assuming my unit converter was right... so that's kinda awkward before you consider the $26 quadrillion cost.

    Note that I had messed up earlier and misread it as 13,000 Gigawatt hours, rather than 13,000 BILLION Kilowatt hours per year... whoops.

    The US road spending is around $100 billion a year for state and federal highway/roadway, btw, and that is the money which is proposed to be used for the solar roads.

    How doable THAT is I don't know, but that same spending would only get you ~50 of those Topaz plants, good for 5 million of the 13 billion kilowatt hours that the roads would give, or the 3.7 billion kilowatt hours the us consumes per year roughly.

    2. Maintaining current roads would be way cheaper then those with solar bricks - there is a reason you don't see many brick roads today and I might add that stone bricks are cheaper then solar panels.
    A large portion of the $100 billion spent each year goes towards maintenance, something like $30 to 40 billion from what I can find. That's a lot more than I thought it was, how about you?

    The same ammount you would after leying the solar roads, since high-power electricity cables pretty much need to go through the air. There is little you can do to prevent such damages.
    Wait, where do you get that idea?

    We already bury high-voltage transmission lines in various places, it is more expensive when you have to dig everything up/shield it/hook it all up, though costs tend to balance out due to reduced damage.

    There would be no need for above ground cables with a system like the solar roadways, that is kinda one of the main points of them, distributed power generation and transmission.

    Neither power lines, nor any other cables will ever produce electricity. As for the roads, it was already explained, why it would be better to build regular solar plants instead.

    Again: solar plant > solar road.
    Except not.


    1. Cleaning the ice the way we do now is immensly cheaper then heating the roads - you might not fully realise, how expensive that would be. Furhtermore, it would be needed in the time, when the solar panels would be least effective, so you need even more conventional power plants then today to compensate.
    No, you need power storage, and it is something which is already designed into them, and it would only be needed when they detect precipitation and subzero road surface temperatures.

    2. Solar roads won't do anything to stop accidents or roadkills, so this is irrelevant.
    The roads would detect the presence of obstructions/animals/accidents and would be able to inform drivers en route that they should slow/divert/take caution.

    2. Again, using those panels in a regular solar plant would give much higher returns.
    Except not, before you consider things like transfer losses... unless you want to cover the whole country in solar panels EXCEPT the roads, you would have a point there, that would generate a lot more power for sure.

    How is using our scarce resources inefficiently a step in that direction?
    Rare-earth metals aren't actually that rare, they're called that because it was applied to the lanthanides, copper and such are planned to make use of as much recycled material as possible... so, that sounds like a very efficient use of resources, plus it has to be more efficient than burning ancient plantjuice and maintaining the infrastructure used to transport said energy while also maintaining the infrastructure used to transfer said plantjuice overland for burning... instead of just maintaining the roadways and handling all three issues.
    Last edited by Max™; 2014-05-23 at 04:37 PM.
    Engraved here is a rendition of an image of the Dwarf Fortress learning curve. All craftsdwarfship is of the highest quality. It depicts an obsidian overhang which menaces with spikes of obsidian and tears. Carved on the overhang is an image of Toady One and the players. The players are curled up in a fetal position. Toady One is laughing. The players are burning.
    ᴛʜɪs ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ᴀ sɪɢɴᴀᴛᴜʀᴇ.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Troll in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    I didn't say it ends maintenance, just that it ends certain types of maintenance needs, while also providing a broad upgrade to multiple systems which badly need it, AND allowing a more distributed approach to power transport/internet service delivery/etc.

    You're replacing multiple required types of maintenance, and multiple types of infrastructure upgrade procedures, with a procedure involving a single worker with the right tools and maybe a jack/lift to remove/replace damaged panels for maintenance, and the actual upgrade procedure is mostly a matter of transporting the panels to the site and getting the cable channels set up.
    Maintaince of such a road would not be as simple as replacing the modules for a variety of reasons. For one, the foundation for the road is more of a problem then the glass bricks themselves and for that you need to strip everything above including all the power and communication cables, unless those are burried deeper, which in turn would make the necessary conservation of cables more problematic. Second of, if you are putting heavy-duty power lines in that road (which you really shouldn't do due to losses and safety reasons), you need both special equipment to deal with it and even more care. Also, I'll repeat myself: there is a reason, we don't see many brick roads nowadays - they are quite costly to keep in good shape and don't allow for fast travel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    Plus, as has been said many times, this is a system which will be generating electricity, which people are known to pay for.
    And they are paying less for it, then it would cost to produce it with those solar panels. Thus, you would be selling it below the production costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    The test lot was that little area by the shed, the values they worked out with the power they generated during January and February in Idaho would work out to 13 Terawatt/hours per year if the US road system were fully upgraded with these, but as I recall they were doing the calculation assuming four hours of direct sunlight per day.


    The numbers are like 3 times current US energy use, as I recall, working off of the values they measured during the winter in Idaho.
    Not quite: 13 TWh per year translates to only about 1,4 GW, which is a little higher then a single nuclear power block. Now calculate the costs for such operation and compare to those of building a regular power plant of comparable power output.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    Oh, and that's going off of current widely available panels at ~18% efficiency, and naturally that tech can be ugpraded as things go along.
    There are theoretical limits on the solar panel efficiency, but they are indeed higher then that: 33%. Organic dye cells could theoretically do even better, but we have yet to build stable ones with any reasonable efficiency.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max™ View Post
    Eh, the power generation is a nice bonus, but having smart roadways with the cable channel alone WOULD be nice.

    Though, at that point you are losing out on having them generate power/be certain to pay off the costs.
    On the other hand, if you forego the power generation part, the whole project would be much, much cheaper and less prone to failure. As a side note, active lighting of the roads is not a necessity, since reflective paints and cat's eyes work well enough.
    In a war it doesn't matter who's right, only who's left.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Max™'s Avatar

    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Looking for the Xeelee
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

    I was VERY mistaken due to a reading error.

    It isn't 13 Terawatt hours, it said 13,000 Billion KILOwatt hours... and my brain stuck Billion and 13,000 together, skipping the kilo part somehow. 13 Petawatt hours vs national usage of say 4 Petawatt hours per year.

    The road surface underneath makes an excellent foundation in most cases, there are numerous ways it can be reinforced and insulated without having to tear it all up, though problems below could still be handled as the modular panels could be more readily removed/replaced to allow such maintenance.

    The cable channel alongside the road would handle the main transmission/distribution I imagine, but there is no way that the losses could ever be greater for a system which is literally generating significant power a matter of meters from any uses, unless you actually happen to live right next door to a major power plant... which sounds a lot less fun than having futuristic smartroads out in front of your house.
    Engraved here is a rendition of an image of the Dwarf Fortress learning curve. All craftsdwarfship is of the highest quality. It depicts an obsidian overhang which menaces with spikes of obsidian and tears. Carved on the overhang is an image of Toady One and the players. The players are curled up in a fetal position. Toady One is laughing. The players are burning.
    ᴛʜɪs ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ᴀ sɪɢɴᴀᴛᴜʀᴇ.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •