A prototype solar roadway in Idaho was supposed to represent a possible green energy future, but technical issues have exposed just how far off the technology is from prime time.
Screenshots taken by Twitter users from the roadway’s official webcam show smoke coming out of a nearby electric box. Firefighters soon showed up to the scene, prompting the solar project’s official webcam to issue an update: “The Solar Roadways electrical system is currently undergoing maintenance. Please check back late next week.”
— Brendan MaC (@bmcguitar) March 6, 2017
The prototype has a long history of disastrous technical issues.
Roughly 25 out of 30 panels installed on it broke within a week after developers pumped $3.9 million into it over 6.5 years of development.
Despite massive internet hype, the prototype of solar “road” can’t be driven on, hasn’t generated any electricity and 75 percent of the panels were broken before they were even installed.
Of the panels installed to make a “solar footpath,” 18 of the 30 were dead on arrival due to a manufacturing failure. Rain caused another four panels to fail, and only five panels were functioning shortly thereafter. The prototype appears to be plagued by drainage issues, poor manufacturing controls and fundamental design flaws.
Every single promise made about the prototype seems to have fallen flat and the project appears to be a “total and epic failure,” according to an electrical engineer.
If it had worked, the panels would have powered a single water fountain and the lights in a restroom, after more than $500,000 in installation costs provided by a grant from the state government. The U.S. Department of Transportation initially handed $750,000 in grants to fund the research into the scheme, then invested another pair of grants worth $850,000 into it. The plan, dubbed, “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways” raised another $2.2 million dollars in crowd-funding, even though several scientists publicly debunked the idea.
Scientists repeatedly criticized the scheme as panels on roads wouldn’t be tilted to follow the sun, which makes them incredibly inefficient, would often be covered by cars during periods when the sun is out and wouldn’t be capable of serving as a road for long.
Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways has received fawning coverage in The Huffington Post, Nature World News, Newsweek, Wired, Ecowatch and National Geographic. The program was supported by political leaders like Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo.
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