The future brought to you today
Solar roads are the future brought to you to today and just in time to invest on a technology that will keep on giving after it repays itself. So, what are solar roadways you mas ask? The basic idea of solar roadways is that they work just like solar panels do, which are usually found on rooftops of businesses, homes, and other buildings. What these panels do is they capture the energy radiated by the sun and convert it into usable energy, such as electricity, to power our every day lives. Solar roads have the same function, but the difference is the location where these specific solar panels are placed. As one may infer, solar roads are constructed on transited roadways and are specifically designed to withstand weights exceeding 250,000 pounds, which is more than enough to handle loaded semi-trucks. Primary implementation is focused on bike lanes only and based on the consumers satisfaction further implementation of more solar road panels on city streets for vehicles to commute can be discussed. With the rise in CO2 emissions, as well as other hazardous green house gasses, the timing could not be better to invest in solar roads. Boulder Colorado can be ground zero for the nations first city to invest in this bright future and see for itself all the great benefits these solar roads can bring for the city’s infrastructure, energy sector, local environment and financial investments.
City of Colorado's Energy Plan & Goals
The City of Boulder Colorado has started to take several steps to move towards new, clean energy alternatives. The first step procedure consists of making a cleaner energy deal with Excel Energy. This includes the transfer of city assets from Excel to the prospective Municipal Energy Company. Creating a corporation such as Municipal Energy Company will help the city retain much of the profit that would normally go to shareholders. With this plan, the city will be able to make more profit by having a local energy company, thus having extra money available for cleaner energy technologies. Currently the city offers many of its resident’s solar energy rebates as an incentive to install solar panels on their homes. However, with the increase of profit from the local energy company the city would now be able to implement solar bike roads. This implementation would offer more surface area, for transportation, equivalent to 300 miles of bike trail. This would guarantee a much greater solar energy output thus helping the city meet its goal of creating better, clean, reliable, low-cost, local energy.
- Democratize Energy Decision so that Boulder's citizens have more direct control about their decisions involving energy usage. This also includes the opportunity to invest in their long-term energy needs.
- Decentralization Energy Generation and Management: meaning a reduction in external fuel sources such as outside energy companies. This allows the citizens to directly manage their energy source.
- Decarbonize the Energy Supply reducing the impact non renewable energy resources have on the environment. - Jesus Garza
- The City of Boulder cares about climate change and wants to do something about it.
- Voters want to move away from harmful sources of energy and move to a cleaner new better alternative.
- Community of Boulder would benefit greatly by implementing a municipal energy company.
- This would allow the city to attain more income.
- It would lower citizens current electricity rate of 11.05/kWh.
- Such a large investment would benefit the city in the long run and public electric expenses would pay for themselves. - Jesus Garza
University of Colorado Boulder
Lets take a closer look at one of Boulders major energy consumers it being UC Boulder.
- Annually this university consumes around 130,000 megawatt hours of energy.
- They have current implementation of solar panels to help cope with the energy need.
- The actual energy output of the solar panels on campus accounts for one percent of the total annual energy consumption. -Orlando Reyes
Current testing is under way
Let's do the math
Based on these numbers this means the City of Boulder could have about 1,584,000 feet of solar roads which equates to roughly about 20,660,869.57 Kilowatt-hours. This is enough to power about 6,886 small houses every year. - Jesus Garza
Currently, coal burning is causing damage to the air we breathe, as well as the atmosphere around us. In 2013, the American Lung Association gave Boulder a grade of “D” for its ozone quality. This is important because the EPA states that ozone won’t regenerate until the 2050’s, so any continuing degradation of the ozone will take a very long time to fix. Additionally, coal combustion releases chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and even trace amounts of mercury, which have been linked to both neurological and developmental damage in humans and other animals.
The startup costs may be on the pricey side, but they will continue to pay for themselves over the years, and eventually produce energy at just the cost of maintenance.The sooner we can implement this technology into the bike lanes of Boulder, the sooner we can stop depending on fossil fuels for energy. If all goes well, Boulder will take a huge leap forward in renewable energy, and the city will serve as a model to the rest of the country, and the world, that this technology can work.
Solar roads convert solar energy into electricity.
Over head view
More than 150,000 cyclists rode their bikes over a 230 foot solar bike track located in the Netherlands.
Fish eye view
Designers suggest solar roads can withstand up to 250,000 pound.
Keeping People Safe and Happy
- Solar Roadway panels can be replaced on an individual level. This means that breaks are cheap and quick to fix. This also keeps the roads functioning for the majority of the time, meaning roads are almost always available for the citizens to use. No more long periods of construction or forced detours. Repairs almost never need to be conducted on the entire road. Better simpler and longer lasting than concrete, asphalt, or gravel; current testing estimates that the panels should, short of accident, last for two decades.
- These panels have been tested and proven to withstand a massive amount of weight. Trucks, tractors, trailers, 18-wheelers, short of catastrophic failure these roads are built to last. The panels will not crack or break under stress. While it is true they may experience some slight degradation in integrity according to an article published by Triple Pundit, this is only due to extreme circumstances, and can be replaced panel by panel as it occurs.
- Snow a problem in your city? Not a problem anymore with Solar Roads. The panels store the sunlight they absorb as energy and use some of the stored thermal radiation as heat to be used when necessary. As snow approaches the panel it is melted by the stored energy. This keeps the road clear during the winter. Those blizzards that used to shutdown roadways and cause massive damage? No longer a concern. Winter will no longer slowdown your cities productivity, risk the citizens safety or force you to fix your roadways.
- Motor vehicle accidents are incredibly frequent and incredibly deadly. Roadblocks, accidents, drunk drivers, and even the aftermath can be a risk to drivers. The pressure sensitive panels on Solar Roadways warn drivers of potential dangers and upcoming hazards. Roadkill could be a thing of the past, and while buzzards may face extinction, animals roaming around would be safe and would not be a threat to drivers on the road.The lights warm of upcoming animals and upcoming wrecks. Those sharp curves will no longer be nearly as dangerous and drunk drivers and dim roads will also no longer pose nearly as much of a threat as they currently do.
- The lights on Solar Roadways can be customized to match any kind of settings imaginable. Need a ball court? You got it. Thicker lines? No problem. The lights can be use to show a road is blocked off or made brighter for when it gets late at night. Repainting and restructuring lanes will take less time and be less expensive which can be a benefit since according to a study conducted by Ted Miller it costs a dollar per meter of road to repaint certain lanes. Not only that but they should be repainted at least once a year. This can wrack of mounds of expenses for the city not to mention time, which will no longer be a problem thanks to the lights on Solar Roadways. -Jacob Mathews
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Both 3D Finite Element Method analysis and actual load testing at civil engineering labs showed that our Solar Road Panels can handle more than 230,000 pounds.
2. How long do the panels last?
- We're designing the panels to last a minimum of 20 years. The limiting factor is the solar cells wearing out.
3. How heavy are the panels?
- Each panel weighs 110 pounds.
4. How will melted snow and water be dispersed?
- We designed a stormwater capture section in our Cable Corridor, and the resultant water flows off the road and through grates into a storage tank below the frost line. This can then be pumped where desired.
5. Can Solar Roadways help driver-less cars?
- Yes, when a driver-less car is on the road, it could communicate with the car to tell it where it is, which could replace the need to depend on satellite communications or GPS.
6. Won't dirty panels produce less energy?
- We performed comparison test with a clean panel, and one covered in dirt and dust. The clean panel only produced less than 9 percent more power, so dirty panels may not be a huge issue.
7. When will Solar Roadways become publicly available?
- If all of our testing goes well we plan to have them publicly available by the end of 2016.