You might remember a couple of years ago there was an Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign for Solar Roadways that garnered a huge amount of attention. So much, in fact, that the project raised more than $2.2 million. And now it seems that one state in the US is preparing to trial this idea.
Solar Roadways, for those out of the loop, proposed turning existing roads into solar-powered ones, using some rather expensive tech. Their design involves using hexagonal glass solar panels studded with LED lights, which could be installed on roads, pavements, and even playgrounds.
The panels can apparently withstand even the heaviest trucks, while supplying electricity to nearby businesses and houses. They are waterproof, too, and the LEDs could supposedly display messages or warnings directly on the road. The cost of the panels is estimated at about $70 per square foot, which is about 10 times the price of regular asphalt.
Last week, it was revealed that Missouri’s Department of Transportation (MoDOT) wants to install these solar panels at a welcome center at a rest stop on the historic Route 66 highway in Conway, Missouri. This is part of MoDOT’s “Road to Tomorrow” initiative.
"If their version of the future is realistic, roadways can begin paying for themselves," said Tom Blair, assistant district engineer in MoDOT's St. Louis area district and head of the "Road to Tomorrow" project, reported the local News Tribune.
However, not everyone shares this rose-tinted vision of the future. As pointed out at the time of the Indiegogo campaign by numerous outlets, the innovative technology itself isn’t that, well, innovative. For starters, there’s the cost. It wouldn’t exactly be cheap to replace all existing roads with solar-powered hexagons, with some estimates putting the cost in the trillions of dollars. Why even replace roads, anyway? Why not just build solar panels next to the roads?
"There’s currently a virtually endless supply of places you could install solar panels that DON’T have cars driving over them and, as such, don’t require fancy high-tech glass covering them," said a blog post for Equities back in May 2014. "Or, for that matter, don't mean you have to worry about the long-term wear-and-tear of millions of tons of steel and rubber driving over them at high speed every year."