The primary purpose of Solar Roadways is to generate clean renewable energy on roadways and any other surface that can be walked or driven upon. That would include: parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, tarmacs, plazas, bike paths, playgrounds, garden paths, pool surrounds, courtyards and the like.There are many longstanding uses for solar power, which are terrific. The SR concept takes solar technology to a new level. The idea is to collect the substantial solar energy which hits these surfaces but is currently not being utilized. In this way, they will have a dual purpose: modern infrastructure + smart power grid. This also opens up a whole new market for the solar industry.In the U.S., the highway infrastructure is in a dismal state. Solar Roadways was awarded a Phase I SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) contract by the USDOT to research the viability of creating a highway system that would pay for itself over time through the generation of renewable energy. After now completing three contracts with the USDOT, it is apparent that this goal is viable. SR panels can become the nation’s smart grid, providing energy to homes and businesses along the way.

Currently, most state DOTs (Department of Transportation) are no longer generating enough income through the gas tax to be able to keep up with road repairs. The last few decades have brought dramatic technological changes to cars, cell phones, computers, cameras, and many other technologies, but roads remain virtually unchanged.

It is obvious that it is time to modernize the highway system and create the first roadway system with a return on investment (ROI). In this way, two goals can be accomplished simultaneously: the creation of a modular, modern infrastructure while creating the renewable energy needed to effectively end the current dependence on fossil fuels.

Energy Production

The U.S. has enormous energy needs with only a small percentage currently being supplied by renewables.  From the  U.S. Energy Information Administration:

“Sunshine is radiant energy from the sun. The amount of solar radiation, or solar energy, that the earth receives each day is many times greater than the total amount of all energy that people consume each day. “

“Solar Energy systems/power do not produce air pollution, water pollution, or greenhouse gases. Using solar energy can have a positive, indirect effect on the environment when solar energy replaces or reduces the us of other energy sources that have larger effects on the environment.“

“The electricity generation mix continues to experience a rapid rate of change, with renewables the fastest-growing source of electricity generation through 2050 because of continuing declines in the capital costs for solar and wind that are supported by federal tax credits and higher state-level renewables targets.”

It is apparent that renewable energy, including solar energy, currently meets very little of the energy needs for the U.S. Solar Roadways® is emerging as solar technology is advancing and costs of solar cells are declining – a perfect combination.

Using very conservative numbers, calculations indicate that if all driving and walking surfaces in the U.S. were converted to Solar Roadway panels, they could produce over three times the electricity used in the United States. In fact, just the “lower 48” could almost produce enough electricity to supply the entire world. To see more detail about those calculations, click here.

There are many misconceptions about solar energy production. People often ask: “How many panels will it take to power my house?” or “How much energy will one panel produce in a year”? The answer to both questions is “It depends on a multitude of variable factors”. For example, a driveway in Minnesota is not going to generate as much energy as the same sized driveway in Arizona.

It’s easier to think about panels in terms of wattage.

Each of the SR full-size hexagonal panels covers an area of about 4.39 square feet. The SR2 panels were 36-watt panels. The SR3 panels were 44-watt panels. Our latest model, SR4, is a 48-watt panel.

The amount of power produced depends entirely upon the amount of sunshine available, so in addition to the variable of location discussed above, other variables include: the degree of shading, season/time of the year, time of day, and other local microclimatatic factors. It’s normal for solar gain to increase in sunny seasons and conditions and decrease when less sunshine is available. Potential customers will want to understand what they can expect from their exact location in each season as well as the averaged amount per year.

The next factor to understand is the ratio between driveway and home or parking lot and business. Obviously a situation with a long driveway and smaller home will have a much better chance of energy independence, than another customer’s short driveway with a large home. How much energy one typically uses must also be taken into account. SR will provide customer service to help each potential customer understand what they might expect.

Another factor to consider is that SR will always have the flexibility to use whatever solar cells meet the criteria of offering the most efficiency at an affordable price point. SR panels will become even more efficient over time as new technologies become available to keep up with increased demand for energy with population growth.

If Solar Roadways® becomes the new smart grid – the backbone of the energy delivery system, all forms of renewable energy can be welcomed into the grid with ease. A common problem with centralized renewable energy projects is their difficulty in transferring energy to the grid. SR can facilitate this energy transfer, since roads are universally available and could offer widely available connectivity.

The EPA: describes the problem this way:

“The absence of standard interconnection rules, or uniform procedures and technical requirements for connecting renewable energy systems to the electric utility’s grid, can make it difficult, if not impossible, for renewable systems to connect to the electric utility’s grid.”

They go on to describe another obstacle in renewable energy generation and their connection to the grid:

“Many renewable resources are located in remote areas that lack ready or cost–effective access to transmission. States that have not established clear utility regulations that enable investments in transmission to be reimbursable (i.e., cost recovery), nor coordinated planning and permitting processes, slow the development of utility–scale renewable projects in their territory.”

Solar Roadways® can itself produce massive amounts of renewable energy if decisions are made to implement it on a major scale. It will always be important to support and facilitate other forms of renewable energy as well.

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