Why the ‘Solar Roadways’ technology HATERS are wrong! #clearingthefreakingair

The ‘Solar Roadways‘ fundraiser on IndieGogo just beat the 2 million mark and still growing. Although more than 46,000 people […]


The ‘Solar Roadways‘ fundraiser on IndieGogo just beat the 2 million mark and still growing.

Although more than 46,000 people have put in money to support this technology, there are also almost the same number of internet haters out there–but of course it is expected.

Every single invention of this magnitude has been greeted by the exact same skepticism and mockery. Even those who invented the telegram network in the United States got laughed at when they were seeking funding to help build their infrastructure. The only way it got made was because one or two people believed in them, and it caught on.

Sure, it might not work, but why pour scorn on people for trying before they’ve even got moving on the project? Technology only gets cheaper and more efficient, so the cost today might be nowhere near the cost tomorrow.

A statement such as ‘concerns from the unsuitability of tiles as a road surface and the high costs involved…poor visibility of LED road lighting and the lifespan of materials involved‘ is utter nonsense.

The worst is that people actually believe it when some people write negative things about this technology without actually finding the facts themselves.

The project’s founders have updated their website with a FAQs page that addresses many of the false information about Solar Roadways in order to set the record straight. #clearingthefreakingair!

Here are some concerns we found on the internet, and have tried dissecting them. They are just pure freaking crappy concerns.

1. You can’t point the roadway to track the sun, to improve energy generation efficiency (which is only about 15% for photovoltaics, anyway, which makes PV generation expensive on a large scale).
–Really? This technology is still in R&D and you are concerned about tracking the sun? How many large scale solar installs out there track the sun?

2. Why embed solar panels in such a harsh environment where they are constantly being run over and flexed by millions of tons of vehicles? There are many more practical locations to use (such as roofs, that face southward).
–Its always important to diversify technology as young as solar PV. There are different ways to implement the application of anyone technology. This technology may be best suited for parks for example and less favourable for Nordic regions with high snow fall–only trial test runs will indicate what is best.

3. How do you keep the solar collectors clean (as millions of tires scrub over them, and engines drip oil on them) so that sunlight can get collected by the embedded PV surfaces?
–This takes it to a whole other level. One question; how do you keep solar panels in dusty environments clean? We get the oil thing, but unless there is a heavy oil spill, I don’t think this is worth worrying about. But then again before implementation, we believe the engineers will take that into consideration. Anything else?

4. Who is going to actually PAY for such an obscenely expensive enterprise (other than government, which means you, the taxpayer)?
–Here we go again. The founders have already raised more than 2 million from people around the world and you are worried about tax payers money. Fact check how much tax payers money governments around the world give to oil companies each year in direct cash or in tax subsidies–go on we’ll wait!

Conclusion:
Its simple. This is a new idea or technology that is still in its infancy. Of-course there are all sorts of issues with it–as is expected with every newly developed idea. That is why the founders are raising funds to do more research and advance on the idea before it ventures into large scale trials.

  1. Each one of those could go into more detail. For instance the roads are not meant to be a great place to put solar panels they are meant to be a better cheaper road. They are cheaper because they pay for themselves. They do not need to be as efficient as rooftops units, or as a replacement rooftop units. They only need to be more efficient than asphalt. What’s the ROI for asphalt? The naysayers are short sighted and uneducated. I read things like “Glass is too soft.” That line came from a youtube blogger named Thunderf00t. Tempered glass can and is made to be hared than steel. Glass is not soft. This glass can withstand loads way legal limits, up to 250,000 lbs. This is not window glass. It’s more like Gorilla glass but much thicker. I could go on but all anyone needs to do is a little research and stop posting based off of what they “think” they know. These people are not stupid. My favorite ones are the ones that just say “Looks cool, but it will never work.” No explanation, just ignorance.

    1. @Jef: Thanks for the insightful comment and for supporting the idea–we have to continue supporting this idea and give this couple an opportunity to take this technology from this stage of an idea to at-least a first test phase. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will work but boy it will be a bold statement if does! We see this tech best suited for residential areas, parks and walk-ways were care and attention can be given to it.

      The only concern I have is about the LED addition to their design–seems counter intuitive as power will be needed to keep them working–but oh well; hope they account for the extra juice in their updated designs–watching this one very close.

      1. While I support this idea and have donated to this project I would like to see them move from being ‘This couple’ to ‘This company’. They cannot take an idea/concept like this to completion on their own and the funds were for precisely that – expansion. However all I see them do is churn out more and more souvenirs. So, when are they going to shift gears from ‘Novelty’ to ‘Lets get to Work’? This cannot go on with Scott tinkering in his garage. Yes, I can see they have leased a shed and stuck a sign above the door – what else?

      2. First test phase? They claimed to have tested their prototype, that it meets all traction, wear, and load testing requirements. They claim it could pay for itself. They have no released any of the test procedures, cost data, or power production data, despite having promised to deliver it in the past. They requested that the FHA keep their report a secret.

        The LED issue doesn’t just involve the amount of power the LEDs would consume, but also the fact that no recessed light source, LED or not, can be seen from the shallow angles that you’d encounter on a road.

    1. @John Drake: Thanks for sharing the link (video)–very interesting and intuitive perspective–and thats just it.
      Imagine how the idea of performing an open heart surgery must have been in the past; just pure bull**** at the time. But today its done and very successfully. If all sceptics and people we describe as ‘haters’ to this technology could channel their concerns and questions to the founders, it will tremendously help them as they continue with their idea towards a test phase–don’t you think?

      1. This is another version of the Wright Brothers Fallacy. Just because a certain idea or product that’s commonplace now that may or may not have seemed implausible or impossible in the past, it does NOT mean that all current or past implausible or impossible ideas will become possible in the future.

        The Brusaws have no interest in responding criticism or concerns. They ban people on their Faceplant page for criticism.

  2. For an article claiming to be disturbed about “haters” not checking facts for themselves, you’ve done a piss poor job checking your facts. You’ve failed to actually dispel any of the concerns raised in favor of misrepresenting or dismissing them without consideration. So, let me set you straight:

    A (because you number your other terrible points): We’re pouring scorn over the project because they’ve duped people out of over 2 million dollars for an idea so ill-conceived you can demonstrate that it’s not feasible with a few back-of-the-napkin calculations and google searches (or to be rather unnecessarily thorough, the cost of a solar panel, some LEDs, and a pane of glass). To use Thunderf00t’s example, we’d similarly scorn chocolate frying pans.

    1: We think it’s stupid to lay expensive solar panels flat on the ground because you can mount them to face south (or north in the southern hemisphere) and get substantially more power (how much depends on the latitude), ideally you would use solar panels that track the sun, but tilting them is /cheap/ for the extra power you get out of it.

    2: This concern has a lot to do with the fundamental unsuitability of materials that I’m going to address in the next point, but I’d also like to point out that just because it can be good to diversify technology doesn’t mean putting it in roads is a good idea (or a better idea than putting it next to roads, for example).

    3: So dusty environments are equivalent to road surface conditions? Here’s what solar roadways proposes: put PV elements under glass and have people drive over that glass. Here’s why that’s ludicrous: 1) in order for the PVs to generate power the glass must remain optically clear. 2) glass (plate glass, borosilicate glass, tempered glass, basically anything short of sapphire) has a lower mohs hardness than – and as such can be easily scratched by – common rocks (even sand) that wind blows onto roads constantly. 3) multi-ton vehicles pressing such rocks into glass will rapidly make the glass opaque with scratches, blocking the PVs. If you can dispel any of these points, maybe this aspect would work, otherwise the idea is completely untenable. I can’t imagine sapphire becoming sufficiently inexpensive to make it cheaper than just putting solar panels somewhere no one has to worry about trucks driving over them.

    4: I fully support investment in energy technologies, but it’s important not to waste that investment money when it would be better used elsewhere.

    1. @Ryan Sherman: Thanks for your thoughtful feedback.
      Lets clarify one thing–sceptics are cautious about what they agree to–but this technology has had so much backlash from people who pretend to be sceptics just to argue without reason–we call them “haters”. Its not fair to call this idea “stupid” when its still an idea being tested. You’ve raised quite a handful of valuable points which we’ll seek to channel to the founders as they invest in developing this technology further. Thanks–

      1. I haven’t seen any skeptics argue without reason. I see a lot of well supported arguments about how ludicrous it is while the SFR cult members argue crap like, “People laughed at the Wright Brothers” (they didn’t), “If you’re against this, then you must be paid by Big Oil,” and the fallacy that anything with the word ‘solar’ in it means that it’s a great idea.

        I haven’t yet seen anyone, including SFR, actually defend this using math, science, and reason.

  3. Superficial and basically silly article that avoids facts and reality…like the backers of Solyndra.

    1. @Horatio Fisk: Its brave and talented people such the couple at the lead of this technology that make science prosper. We should encourage them and give them a chance to test the science of their product. If it fails, then they tried. If not–oh well we hope they go back to the drawing board and start all over–because we have to admit they are trying. The Solar Energy industry needs to come up with new stuff like the cell phone industry does each year to keep PV in the news, and act as adrenaline shots when people start losing interest. We believe this is an innovative idea.

  4. With the potential results that this technology suggests, I would rather people take all these valid points and simply, kindly put it to the founders/inventors. Ask them if it’s possible to address or improve the things of your concern. But you won’t do that if you by default believe that these people are just out here to steal you money. I believe that these people have our best interest at heart.

    I don’t care what the difficulties are, the benefits are too much to pass up.. and making some progress is better than going no progress at all. Encourage them.

  5. If those who think solar roadways have problems or won’t work would contribute to either 1. Finding ways to get around those problems or 2. Inventing something themselves, think where we would be. I want to see people fighting over ways to make energy more efficient and to help the planet. Instead, everyone’s fighting over the remains of long dead plants and animals.

  6. I agree with the person who commented on heart surgery. All great ideas take time and money to develop. If our great past scientists and inventors listened to nay-sayers, they would have never accomplished anything. We need inventors, scientist and others willing to try something new. Our country did not become the greatest country in the world in the 20th century by saying no to science and no to everything. I encourage the Team to keep on working on the idea to make it a reality. Right now we have millions upon millions of people out of work and a new invention like this would create millions of jobs for our fellow Americans in the United States. This is a great way to take care of our own and grow our economy once again.
    America should be leading in the Solar Industry. We should be investing as much as possible in development and finding new ways to capture the sun’s energy for our uses. Solar will save our planet and if we care about our future and future generations, we need to act now.

    I suggest that everyone start doing there homework and come up with new ways to help their local communities become more environmentally friendly. It starts with a village. In the end, everyone benefits.

  7. I have to say I am VERY disappointed in the superficial way you report on this. It is as if “TeamPV” has forgotten anything they ever knew about PV. As far as the “roadways” go, there are, of course, a lot of MUCH better alternatives and you do not have to look hard for them. Our industry is putting them all over … rooftop solar, solar on carports and shade structures, field mounted solar … all much more cost effective and better performing. Roadways are DIRTY and get DIRTY and horizontal surfaces stay dirty. Forget all the other (very good) reasons, this one is enough.
    This is a bad joke that will end up reflecting poorly on the rest of our profession. This is either well-meaning and misguided or a con job. They did raise nearly $2 MILLION. Sorry people (who “invested”), I love solar and have spent my entire professional life in it, but you got taken. When I headed up the SMUD Solar Program doing the first broad scale commercialization of grid-connected PV in the US, I had lots of skeptics. But we had done our technical homework and made sure we were always on solid technical grounds. “Roadways” is fundamentally flawed. Yet it has taken in way too many well-meaning people, based on “cool” slick messaging AND, in part, due to folk like you who SHOULD know better. Now go out and do the hard work of making sure solar customers get a fair shake by keeping NEM, reasonable, solar friendly rate structures, rational permitting, and the like.

    1. @Don Osborn: On the contrary Don, we still do remember everything we have ever known about PV–which is that it is a major solution for a sustainable energy source moving forward. Calling this technology a “bad joke” doesn’t make your point any clearer. But you put forward a knowledgeable criticism, and sound (by your comment) as an educated person in the field–so you should know that a technology such as PV needs all the support it can get. When did you last hear of a radical update in PV R&D such this one?

      We have been reporting about PV R&D breakthroughs for a while now and each time they break, they also disappear as quickly as they arrived–because this technology is here doest mean we will see it on our roads within the next 10 years–we agree it needs a lot of work–heck–the founders are seeking funds to implement and improve on their research. How much more should we explain that? In French?

      1. I have to agree with both you and Don.

        Yes – solar is a good and needs all of the positive press it can get. Break-throughs are key to advancing the technology and R&D is expensive.

        The notion behind the solar roadways project is compelling but not without obvious problems. And I have to agree with Don that your attempts to dispel the criticisms (which you selected) are facile.

        Being able to $2M on IndieGogo does not necessarily mean that this is a good idea or a good investment. Why did they resort to IndieGogo? Why not impress the heck out of organizations with much deeper pockets that are already funding solar research? With all due respect to the 46K folks who did contribute, how many of them reviewed the financials for this project (or are they available)? How many signed up after simply watching the promo video? How many of them will give to another solar project in the future if this one is unsuccessful?

        Probably the best argument in favour of solar roadways is that the ROI on asphalt is 0 so as long as there is some output from this technology, it is an improvement.

        If they mentioned it, I missed it but what is the overall anticipated efficiency of the system? Their parking lot is equivalent to an 3600W system… that is generally the peak efficiency. What is the efficiency when the lot is covered by cars? Conventional PV generally warrants 80-90% after 20-25yrs, what is their anticipated degradation curve? How long is their `glass` going to last? All of the worn glass that I’ve seen is virtually opaque (look for small bits being ground in the sand at the sea shore). How do you provide good traction on the road while maintaining a clear finish that does not scatter the light before it gets to the cells? etc. etc.

        Yeah – the easy response to most of my questions is to do R&D and they needed funding to do that… So good on them for being able to raise $2M. I do hope that they’re successful but I believe they’re developing a solution that seems doomed to be marginally efficient at best.

        In other news, I saw an announcement today about a new type of glass that could one day improve the efficiency of PV cells by as much as 50%… (sorry I can’t find the link at the moment)

        1. @Al Caughey: Thanks for the feedback. We were wondering if the newly designed glass to which you are referring is the light-trapping laminate design by ‘Lucent Optics’.

  8. aspiring engineer here – I’d like to weigh in on these, if the topic’s not done to death yet…

    1: tracking is a bit of a nonissue – horizontal solar panels get a fair amount of light already. Certainly that could be improved, but if you really wanted to you could have tracking mirrors along the side that do the same thing.

    2. I tend to agree with the ‘harsh environment’ objection – if this program fails, I expect it will be due to that. There are huge difficulties to overcome in having something as expensive as a solar panel get run over by vehicles all day, and I have no idea how the creators intend to manage them. Saying that tempered glass is harder than asphalt is a bit of a red herring – it’s not a problem if asphalt cracks, it would be a huge problem if these do. That said, the majority of the stresses should be predictable – but that doesn’t mean they’d be easy to deal with.

    3. keeping them clean seems like another legitimate issue, given how much of a problem it is if part of the array is blocked. I can only hope they’ve got some kind of no-streak coating on the surface of these panels, else this could reduce the service life by a lot.

    4. This is not a project for the highways department, at least not at first. It’s a novelty product and it will be bought for its novelty – probably for some driveways and tennis courts at first, then possibly for some subdivisions. It will be a while before solar panels become so cheap that this product has a positive monetary payback, but if you want your driveway to look like tron or have the coolest Christmas decorations… I imagine that’s not too far off now.

    What a world we live in.

    1. @Chris: Nop! The topic hasn’t been run to the ground yet–in fact its just a start. Did you notice the founders were invited to the White House? By the way you raise an agreed upon issue; that this is not a project for the highways. We believe it will work best on playgrounds and in parks.

  9. How about addressing these issues:

    Solar Roadways will produce more CO2/greenhouse gasses, than they will prevent, this is because it takes massive amounts of energy to produce them, for instance glass melts at a higher temperature than steel, ~ 3,000 degrees F., once air is heated to above 1,500 degrees F. it starts to produce nitrous oxide, which when mixed with water vapor becomes nitric acid (acid rain),

    Where are you going to get that energy from just to make the glass????

    Plus it will take massive amounts of oil to produce them as well because the components are mostly plastic, such as the circuit boards which are made from fiberglass and polyester resin, where do plastics come from… oil, plus the metals used to make them have to be mined, refined, processed, shipped… which all takes massive amounts of energy, that produce CO2.

    So as far as making a positive impact on the environment, they will not.

    This is one of the reasons biofuels crops are not environmentally economical as they where thought to be, because farming them would produce more CO2 than it would prevent, not to mention factoring in water waist, land area usage…

    I finally found some real world information about how much energy it would take to melt the snow on these solar roadways.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=692sSspZvCs
    According to this company (that is doing this using hot water), it takes about 150 btus per square foot to melt snow at the rate of 1″ of snowfall per hour.
    I did and online btu to watt conversion calculator and this equals 43.962… watts per square foot. I calculated that solar roadways panels are 4 square feet each (parking lot they built used 108 solar road panels, the parking lot is 12′ X 36′ that equals 4 square feet per panel).
    This means that each panel would need 175.848 watts to melt a snow fall of one inch per hour.
    For the 12′ X 36′ parking lot it would take 18,991.584 watts per hour to keep up with that amount of snow fall.
    Solar Roadways claim that their roadway with 100% solar panel coverage will produce a maximum of 5,600 watts, which is about 3 and a half times less energy than it needs to produce in an ideal situation to melt the snow, which would have to be paid for.

    What about differential loading which will cause the panels to loosen up ever time a vehicle drives over them. Here is an example from one of the solar roadways videos. @ about 1:27 Just by him walking on them caused them to flex you can see it for yourself, now what happens when you drive a two ton car over them? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bK9Q1R-uMsk

  10. We had a pretty good discussion going on the Tesla Motors Forum w/ a pretty level-headed debated on a couple of threads.

    My post:
    my.teslamotors (dot) com/forum/forums/solar-roadways-campaign-back

    Google seems to have lost the other thread.

    From my post:

    I think it is healthy, even vital that we attempt to better understand how Solar Roadways is expected to work and question their work. The thing to remember is that this has been a project for several years. Several third-parties have collaborated with them including several university material scientists who have figured out how to make “glass” that meets requirements for building a road. The main goal is to improve the roads, not just to generate electricity. So saying, “they should do roofs first” misses the point. They are using de-centralized power generation & transmission, engineered “glass”, LED lights, heating elements, water treatment, and a “cable corridor” to improve how we build roads. The current roads need to be maintained, so there is existing budget for that purpose.

    As one poster put it, you need to build them (roads or parking lots) anyways so it makes sense to improve them. I am hopeful that the folks they hire with their Indiegogo campaign will help them prove that it makes sense and can work at scale. They already have a driveway that they have used to verify their concepts.

  11. Tell you what – call Sandpoint Idao Public Works and see how many of their ‘projects’ are approved and breaking ground. Answer? ZERO! Call them yourselves and see. Public Works Department
    www(dot)cityofsandpoint(dot)com
    1123 Lake St, Sandpoint, ID
    +1 208-263-3407

    This is a scam, perpetuated by this website and others. They have scammed investors and taxpayers alike, and it’s pretty apparent as soon as you look behind the scenes or through the evasive answers that this is snake oil. Nonsense.

  12. Blue says:
    April 24, 2015 at 2:19 am
    @Robert Grothe. Shove this math up your post!

    The Brusaws claim that these panels will ‘pay themselves off’, but give no indication as to what those costs will be. What we do know is that solar cells in preferred installations have a life span of five to eight years, so these panels will have a very constrained window for that investment to be recouped.

    I did a little math to illustrate the costs you’re looking at, JUST FOR THE PANELS. This would not include the preparation or installation of the bed it must sit on, labor, or any other expenses.

    A four lane highway is a minimum of 62 feet wide, at 12 feet per lane, plus ten feet on the outside shoulder and four feet on the inside shoulder. A mile is 5280 feet long, giving one mile of highway a minimum of 327,360 sq ft. These panels, assuming they are using the same design as their ‘parking lot’, are approximately 4 sq ft, and probably a little less given their hexagonal shape. So, to cover one mile of highway, you will need minimum 81,840 tiles. Per mile.

    Each of these tiles will require, as I understand it:

    A fitted form of custom glass. In my neck of the woods, 1/4″ tempered glass runs about $25 for a 4 sq ft section. These panels are 2.5″ thick, I believe, or 10x thicker. Cost per panel by weight is therefore approx $250, minimum, without any special formulation. This equates to $20,460,000. For glass. Per mile.

    An enclosure, rugged enough to withstand highway traffic and vehicles with GVWs at the high extreme. Titanium, or carbon fibre, most likely. Titanium being as abundant as it is, let’s use that. According to onlinemetals.com, a single sheet of 1/4″ titanium measuring 2’x2′ costs $1022.26 as of today. Figure two sheets per panel, since it needs to have sides, that’s approximately $2040 per panel. This equates to $167,323,516.80. For enclosures. Per mile.

    Each of these units uses upwards of 150 LEDs as their display method. On EBay.com, 20 x T10 Car White 8 LED 194 168 SMD W5W bulbs cost $1.79. Call it $2 including shipping. Each panel will require 8 boxes, for a cost of $16. This equates to $1,309,440. For bulbs. Per mile.

    Each unit will require solar cells to cover as much of the surface as possible, and by most calculations won’t exceed more than 50% of the surface area. So, each needs approx 2 sq ft of cells. Since the Brusaws claim their panels generate in excess of 32w, looking towards 50w, I priced out the 40w panels. Each panel costs $82.34. That equates to $6,738,705.60. For solar panels. Per mile.

    Each of these will require their own circuit boards, custom made, containing control circuits and processors. I have never priced out such things before, but will assign a value at approx $100 per board, which is likely very generous. Assuming that figure is workable, this equates to $8,184,000. For circuit boards. Per mile. Just to be really conservative, we will include the 82,000 inter connecting wiring harnesses with this figure.

    Each of these panels will need to be secured to what appears to be a cement bed using masonry bolts. Assuming the panels are 6″ deep and the bolts must be 6″ into the base, they would be a foot long. On Amazon.com, Hillman Group 811503 galvanized 12″ hex lag screws are $71.17 for 25. Call it $3 per bolt, each panel requiring at least four. That equates to $982,080. For securing posts. Per mile.

    Assuming we haven’t overlooked any major components (heating elements, perhaps?), our total comes to:
    $204,997,742.40. For tiles. Per mile.
    Or,
    $2504.86 per square foot
    Or,
    $109,111,701.60 per acre.

    So, if your local mall is looking at installing a solar parking lot measuring 10 acres, they’re looking at a cool Billion Dollars.

    The grandiose plan according to their video is to install this system on the 25,000 square miles of road surfaces in the USA. 640 acres per square mile, times 25,000 is 16 million acres, equating to $1,745,787,225,600,000. Approximately TWO QUADRILLION DOLLARS, if we include sales tax on the items required.

    Remember, we have not included the costs of labor, bed preparations, bed materials, conduits, channels, water treatment facilities, or anything else. Just the panels.

    You want to know why this concept doesn’t work, even if you COULD drive on glass? There you go. If you think you’re recovering those costs, you’re insane.

    And if any of you is planning on responding to these equations by saying ‘they can save money by buying in bulk’, you need to be shot for the sake of the species. When was the last time government spent LESS to do something?

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