When will we ride on sunny roads?

Solar energy - or rather, its methodsturning into electric - arises from everywhere, penetrating even into the distant corners of the globe. Houses are equipped with solar panels, solar cells are built into small appliances, even glued on jackets. Why not equip them with roads? In fact, solar road projects attract a lot of attention from around the world. Some even promise to charge electric cars on the go.

The Netherlands built the first sunny roadbike path in 2014. France in January did even bolder - announced plans for the next five years to build 1,000 kilometers of solar roads that could provide energy to five million people.

That is not all. Solmove, a German company, plans to equip German roads with solar panels, and Idaho Solar Roadways received three rounds of funding from the US government to test its technology.

“We have interested customers from all 50states and most countries around the world, ”says Julie Bursow, co-founder of Solar Roadways with her husband, engineer Scott. She says that before tackling open roads, they tested their panels in non-critical areas: in parking lots, on footpaths, and also on their own road.

“We are negotiating a few veryinteresting projects, ”she says. The Missouri Department of Transportation wants to install such panels in recreational areas along I-70. Spouses say tempered glass panels offer an asphalt-like grip, support the weight of semi-trailers, turn on LEDs for marking and contain heating elements to melt snow and ice.

Can solar panels really cover the roads of the future? Initiators of this kind see endless possibilities, but others raise questions about cost, efficiency and durability.

“We just put our solar panels onexisting pavement, ”said Jean-Luc Gaultier, inventor of Wattway technology, which will be tested this spring in France before its polycrystalline silicon layer is applied to real roads. Gauthier, technical director of the construction company Colas, said he was inspired by the fact that the roads look into the sky, which means they can collect solar energy.

“The surfaces that occupy the roads in eachthe country is truly huge, ”Bursou wrote on his website. “If you use this space to double solar farms, the consequences will be very positive, including for climate change.” They believe that if their panels are placed on US roads and footpaths, the country will produce three times as much electricity as it consumes.

In addition, such panels could chargeelectric transport, primarily in parking lots. With the proper amount of sunny roads and cars with the necessary equipment (for removing energy from induction stoves), it would be possible to charge them even while driving.

Cost problem

“In theory, sunny roads are a great idea. But the issue is cost, ”says Mark Jacobson, a professor of engineering at Stanford University who offers to fully convert America to renewable energy.

“If you push aside the road dust,especially the black dust of tires, and the exhaust gases that quickly cover the panels, continuous movement will reduce the received radiation, ”says Jacobson, adding also that such panels will have to be replaced and repaired more often than any others.

In addition, although equipping the roads with solarbatteries will not incur land acquisition costs, as is the case with solar farms; these panels cannot be rotated for optimal solar exposure. In general, he is afraid that the sunny road will not be able to compete in price.

"Installation of photovoltaic cells on the roadat first it seems like a crazy idea, ”wrote an independent research and consulting firm IDTechEx in a report. “But further study shows that most of the problems are easy to overcome, and even with low efficiency, local electricity has a useful use.”

Despite the high costs, sunny roadscould be perfect for places where roads are being paved for the first time, said Peter Harrop, chairman of the company. Such roads need first followers for further development.

However, he does not expect the appearance of sunny roads in London, since in this city roads are often excavated for underground work.

In the Netherlands, they favorsolar power. In the first year, 300,000 motorcycles and bicycles crossed a 70-meter stretch connecting the two suburbs of Amsterdam. Officials say SolaRoad produced more energy than expected - enough to power three families.

Solar Roadways has yet to resolve issues withmanufacturing process, since it’s very expensive to make solar cells manually. Nevertheless, roads with such a coating would be very useful: they can melt the snow and prevent the water from freezing. This would be especially useful in parking lots, porches, sidewalks and bike paths.