Opinion: Solar roadways

Opinion graphic

Solar roadways. I don’t know if most people like or hate them, but they are definitely curious. Michael Naphan’s YouTube video about the pavement of the future debuted in May and has already reached over 17 million views.

Solar roadways are a new way to pave streets, sidewalks and any other type of road. According to the Indiegogo, a website that promotes crowd funding for different ideas, the solar panels can withstand vehicles up to 250,000 pounds.

I, for one, like the idea of solar roadways. Asphalt should be replaced with solar panels for many reasons, the main one being the abundance of clean energy it would generate. Solar panels are crafted to collect and store energy. If talking about eliminating the need for fossil fuels doesn’t excite you, consider some of the other ways solar paneled roadways would benefit, well, basically everyone.

LED lights are used in the solar panels and can be changed as needed. For example, let’s say panels were installed in a restaurant parking lot where, initially, only two handicapped parking spots were made. After observing the business and parking lot, perhaps the owner decides that more handicapped spots are needed. Instead of painting a new handicapped sign on the pavement, LED lights can be programmed to simply add another handicapped spot. This works both ways in that any unnecessary handicapped spots can be eliminated without the need for new pavement or paint.

This would allow for taxes to be spent elsewhere, rather than on the cost of repainting and repairing pavement as needed. Cracks and potholes would also be eliminated. Never again would you have to worry about the unevenness of roads that cause your car to rattle. Black ice, snow and other dangerous driving conditions would vanish due to heating elements that could be added to the solar panels in northern climates, according to SolarRoadways.com – a website detailing potential uses from the creators and founders of Solar Roadways. It would function much like a heated driveway does.

A couple years ago, the term global warming was projected all over the news; it warned people of melting ice caps, dying polar bears and the fact that our fossil fuels will soon be depleted. Solar panels could, after replacing most pavements, be a completely new source of energy. Forget windmills taking up thousands of acres of land and costing millions of dollars. Forget replacing roofs with expensive solar panel alternatives. As the panel pays for itself over time, the initial cost of this energy saving product would not be an economic issue, which would greatly benefit thousands in the near future.

Speaking of thousands of people, many of us worry about getting connected to future employers. If solar roadways were created, there could be a flood of jobs as well. We’re talking engineers to build the panels, electricians to wire them and construction to tear up old pavement and replace them with the solar panels. Thousands could say goodbye to the fear of the current unemployment issue.

Solar roadways could not only solve problems nationally, but globally as well. According to the Indiegogo, solar panels could be a necessity when natural disasters strike. Any lack of power hinders communication between volunteers and those in need. Third-world countries would also benefit from solar panels, where energy is not as easily accessible.

The list of benefits are endless, and the only potential negative aspect of the panels would be the initial cost. However, both the amount saved in energy and the potential revenue generated from the electricity would help recover the initial cost of purchase and installation on the solar panels, “Thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time.”

Sorry for those of you invested in the asphalt industry, but we have the opportunity to do something huge with these small panels, and I hope to one day drive down a street paved green.

  • Um…


    Please review the viability and cost-effectiveness of a product before labeling it as a solution to problems that would be better served by conventional solar.

  • Solar roadways are certainly an exciting idea. There are so many new innovations that are being developed that it can be hard to know when to make an investment. Why go solar now when all this
    cool technology is right around the corner? The reality is that rooftop solar is here now and it’s affordable. And the sooner you make the solar switch, the sooner you’ll hedge against rising electricity costs and the more you’ll save. Learn more about deciding when you should go solar – //bit.ly/Z3KxzF

    • Christopher Wisdom

      FYI: Not all homes are allowed solar panels. (i.e. Historic homes)

      • foobeca

        Ok, so we should just bankrupt the country to attempt to solve problems that don’t exist, while creating new ones???

  • Dustin X

    “This would allow for taxes to be spent elsewhere, rather than on the cost of repainting and repairing pavement as needed.” So you’re saying that tempered glass roads will magically never need to be repaired? You’re dead wrong. Do you realize that asphalt is the most recycled product in America? It is over 99% recycled and hundreds of times cheaper than the trillions of dollars it would take to implement, yet alone repair tempered glass. Not to mention that solar roadways requires a concrete base to begin with. Its cheaper and more efficient to put panels on roofs, not under vehicles. Its also more efficient to angle panels toward the sun. A typical panel takes 10 years to pay for itself. A solar road tile will take longer because it needs to pay extra for the tempered glass, microcontrollers, and concrete base. It will also take even longer because it cannot be angled and will get dirty. Even if it took 20 years to pay for itself(supposing it never broke), solar panels pretty much die after 20 years. Do your homework for crying out loud.

    • Christopher Wisdom

      “So you’re saying that tempered glass roads will magically never need to be repaired?” The writer never said that. The panels are modular, which means that if one or two are damaged, they’re easily replaced by a crew of one, maybe two, people, in a pickup truck, in about ten to fifteen minutes. Not by shutting down half a road for hours by a crew of six or more people.
      “A typical panel takes 10 years to pay for itself. A solar road tile will take longer because it needs to pay extra for the tempered glass, microcontrollers, and concrete base. It will also take even longer because it cannot be angled and will get dirty. ” You’re assuming, of course, that these will be “typical” panels – they aren’t. These are new types of panels covering more square footage, and being able to be placed on more surfaces, such as playgrounds, driveways, parking lots, sidewalks and such. If all of the thousands of miles of roadways in the continental US (excluding “other” surfaces I mentioned above) were at fifteen percent efficiency, those panels would generate three times our country’s needs! 15%! It will pay for itself in a matter of a year or two, not decades. Also, traffic and wind will naturally blow most dust and dirt off the roads, and rain will wash it clean, so no problem there. Other than sand and dirt from sand trucks in winter, there really isn’t much to keep a panel dirty.
      “…solar panels pretty much die after 20 years.” Hopefully, somebody will invent a better solar roadway – or even flying cars!

      • Russ Whiteman

        Have you ever actually touched a road? They’re covered in oil and dirt…enough to cause a serious degradation in efficiency. Solar roadways are a scam, a con, and a pipe dream. You want to make a difference, fight to convert roofing to solar panels, fight to add solar panels as covers for parking lots, fight to create more wind farms, geothermal plants and wave generators. Don’t waste your time on crap that doesn’t stand up to basic physics.

      • foobeca

        These stupid things would produce very little power and may not produce any net power at all after powering the electronics, LEDs, and…giggle….heaters. Back of the envelope calculations show that it’d cost $60 trillion…The payback on that would be 150 years, well beyond the lifetime of the panels and not taking bond interest into consideration.

  • just goes to show you how uneducated people really are. For the last couple of decades Math & Science test scores have plummeted in the US. Less and less students have no desire on learning these subjects and it shows. This elaborate scam which also has taken our taxpayer dollars on JUNK science with statements that just don’t add up (MATH wink wink). I suggest that everyone who’s invested in this scam should go back to school and just lean the basics then come back and boast that it will work.