A prototype solar road in Idaho is broken again only a few weeks after it caught on fire.
Dubbed “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways,” the project has received $3.9 million in funding and been in development for 6.5 years, but is still plagued by major problems. A Twitter user caught images of the roadway being repaired Wednesday after breaking again.
Solar Roadways broke again a few days back by the looks of it
— Dave Jones (@eevblog) March 29, 2017
Earlier this month, screenshots taken from the roadway’s official webcam show the electrical box that controls the panels catching fire and smoking. 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.”
The prototype road has been plagued by problems since it was installed and roughly 25 out of 30 its panels broke within a week.
Despite massive internet hype, the prototype of the solar “road” can’t be driven on, hasn’t generate 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. A short rain shower caused another four panels to fail, and only five panels appear to be presently functional. 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.
Covering the road with solar panels would also be exceedingly destructive to the power grid, which is set up to handle conventional energy. In order for any power grid to function, demand for energy must exactly match supply. Power demand is relatively predictable and nuclear plants can adjust output accordingly. Solar power of any type cannot easily adjust output and is thus unpredictable relative to conventional systems.
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