Scientists Hate Solar Roads, But Gov’t Keeps Funding Them


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Construction of roads made of solar panels is set to begin on four different continents, even though scientists and engineers hate the idea.

A recent Bloomberg article notes that solar road projects are begining in France, Japan and Africa and even have recieved taxpayer support in the U.S, yet scientists have repeatedly criticized the scheme. They suspect that solar panels on roads would be worse than useless, as they wouldn’t be tilted to follow the sun, incredibly fragile, 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.

A prototype of the solar road in Idaho 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. A short rain shower caused another four panels to fail, and only five panels were functional by the end of the week. The prototype appears to be plagued by drainage issues, poor manufacturing controls and fundamental design flaws.

The U.S. Department of Transportation initially disbursed $750,000 in grants to fund research into the scheme, then invested another $850,000 subsequently. The plan, dubbed, “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways,” raised another $2.2 million dollars in crowd-funding, even though several scientists publicly debunked the idea.

Every single promise made about the solar roadway prototype seems to have fallen flat and the project appears to be a “total and epic failure,” according to an electrical engineer.

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 and is thus unpredictable relative to conventional systems.

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