Energy

Solar Panel Road Still Hasn’t Generated Any Power After Spending Millions

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

A prototype solar road hasn’t generated any electricity despite getting several million dollars in funding.

Despite internet hype, a prototype of the solar “road” built in Idaho couldn’t be driven on, didn’t generate any electricity and 75 percent of its panels broke within a week of installation. 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 two panels appear to be presently functional.

If it had worked, the panels would have powered a single water fountain and the lights in a restroom, after more than half-a-million dollars 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 tiled 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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