An Idaho startup is hoping to bring solar technology to U.S. roads. With some luck, U.S. companies may build new roads that absorb solar energy. “With LED lights built in, roads could become emergency signs, warning of a wreck around the bend. And an integrated heating element could melt snow and ice, rendering salt and snowplows superfluous,” The Boston Globe reports. Some companies are even promising drivers no more potholes.
The online community has been overwhelmingly supportive. A single YouTube video advertising the solar Road has more than 16 million views. Online supporters have also started a crowd-funding project, bringing in $2 million so far.
Engineers, however, are less optimistic. “While the concept clearly catches the imagination, most people who have researched, funded, or tried to roll out solar projects will tell you that surface streets and freeways are probably the last places they would want to deploy solar panels,” The Boston Globe continues. Furthermore, the cost of installing solar panels on roads is likely to be much more expensive than building a standard asphalt road.
Even so, developers of solar roads standard ground. Solar roads would Completely eliminate painting, repainting, potholes, and snow removal costs, according to their supporters. “The price of solar panels has dropped 77 percent over the last seven years,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher, Tonio Buonassisi, adds.
“While an innovation like this sounds very exciting, it doesn’t feel like it would be within reach in the short term (5 to 10 years). If and when it does happen, it would further underscore the need for clean roadways and parking lots and we’ve always welcomed that challenge!” says Steve Dekelbaum – Quiet Sweep, Rockville, MD.