Four Solar Road Designs Unveiled by University of Rhode Island

solar roads, solar energy

There are 2.7 million miles of public roads in the United States, and in the past we’ve seen several innovative designs that transform these paved surfaces into energy and heat-generating solar roads. One company, Solar Roadways, has even come up with a prototype solar panel for roads, however they are expensive ($7,000 each) and it has been estimated that the cost for transforming the whole country’s roads solar would top $35 trillion. Faced with this is ridiculous cost, the University of Rhode Island has come up with four feasible methods for super-charging our roads with solar power – read on for a look at each!

solar roadways, solar roads, solar highwayPhoto © Daniel Lobo

The first method is to gather solar energy from Jersey Barriers, the walls that are often used to separate opposite lanes on narrow roads. The research team from the University believes that if flexible photovoltaic cells were installed along the tops of these barriers, then the energy collected could be used to power street lights and road signs.

“This is a project that could be implemented today because the technology already exists,” said K. Wayne Lee, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering and the leader of the team. “Since the new generation of solar cells are so flexible, they can be installed so that regardless of the angle of the sun, it will be shining on the cells and generating electricity.”

solar roadways, solar roads, solar highwayImage © University of Rhode Island

Another method would see the installation of water pipes under the roadway. Heated water could be flushed through the pipes to melt ice one the roads, making them safer to drive on. It would also eliminate the need for salting roads, which would reduce carbon emissions related to hauling and spreading salt by truck. Graduate student Andrew Correia has built a prototype of such a system in a URI laboratory to evaluate its effectiveness. “One property of asphalt is that it retains heat really well,” Lee said. “My tests showed that during some circumstances, the water even gets hotter than the asphalt.”

The third option uses the thermoelectric effect, which occurs when hot and cold spots are linked by semiconductors. By planting semiconductors at different depths, the heat from the asphalt can be collected.

solar roadways, solar roads, solar highway

Finally, the last method is the most expensive – replacing asphalt with self-contained, durable modules that include photovoltaic cells and other equipment to generate electricity and provide illumination. Due to the costs and technology needed, this is the most unlikely approach. However Lee believes it is inevitable.

“This kind of advanced technology will take time to be accepted by the transportation industries. But we’ve been using asphalt for our highways for more than 100 years, and pretty soon it will be time for a change.”

Source: Inhabitat

Roads cover a huge amount of surface area and their environmental impact is considerable.  If a secondary, eco-friendly use could be found for tarred roads then their impact could be offset- solar roadways seem to be an ideal way of achieving this.  Solar energy from the sun is a free energy source making it an ideal renewable energy source for domestic use too.  Solar power for homes is rapidly developing into an affordable and accessible option for homeowners, especially solar water heaters.

Water Rhapsody Water Conservation Systems has incorporated Yes Solar Mpumalanga so that we can offer solar water heating systems to further reduce your environmental impact (water and energy are linked).  Yes Solar is a distributor for Solsquare Solar Energy Solutions- high quality German-engineered solar energy systems that are competitively priced.  Solsquare solar geysers are SABS- and Eskom-approved and are fitted by qualified, Eskom-accredited solar installers.

Our water and solar systems will save the environment while you save money on water and electricity bills; get free water and free water heating!

Contact us for a free quote on a solar geyser, rainwater harvesting system, rainwater tank, grey water recycling system or water tank (we are JoJo Tanks dealers for the full range of JoJo water tanks, JoJo tank stands and also supply Atlas Plastics water tanks).


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