Solar road panels with LED traffic illumination

Oct 7, 2009 Last month Idaho-based company Solar Roadways received a $100,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation, to build their first-ever Solar Road Panel prototype.

Used for both roadways and parking lots, the Solar Road Panel features structurally-engineered photovoltaic panels that collect solar energy to power the roads’ own mechanisms, as well as nearby businesses and houses. Made of a high-performance glass, the panel’s top layer is textured to provide the same traction as asphalt in rain. It is also self-cleaning; the sun’s ultraviolet rays break down any surface dirt, which is then washed away by rain.

Solar Roadway Panel

LEDs embedded into the panels light up for the road lines and up-to-the-minute instructions (like “construction ahead”). The prototype also senses wildlife on the road and warn drivers to slow down. Heating elements would prevent snow and ice build-up, and a Ground Fault Interrupter isolates damaged panels (disrupted by storms or earthquakes, for example) to prevent them from shorting out surrounding units. The system also allows electric vehicles to recharge along roadways or in parking lots.

But all these mechanisms only use about a third of the power generated by the panels — the rest goes to the surrounding community. Each unit can potentially produce 7600 watt hours of electricity per day, based on four hours of sunlight – about a quarter of a household’s daily energy use. It would take about 880 panels to cover a two-lane highway for one mile — enough electricity to power over 200 houses. While it would take five billion 3.65 metre square panels to cover the asphalt surfaces in the U.S. alone, it could produce three times more power than the country has ever used — almost enough to power the whole world.

The first-ever Solar Roadways plant is planned for Sandpoint, Idaho, where the first batch of panels will be installed in the plant’s parking lot. The energy provided from the parking lot will put the entire plant completely off the grid.

Source: PV Review


Author:  Ray Andersson

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