Mar 06, 2021
Solar roads solve the energy crisis? How did it develop
Do you know the solar road? In 2014, solar roads were considered the ultimate solution to the global energy crisis. The idea is simple: plant solar panels on the road to generate electricity. Allegedly, these panels will also use different LED patterns to illuminate the road. In winter, the heating coil can also melt snow and ice.
But it turns out that this is not the case. None of the solar roads installed today are cost-effective or efficient energy producers. These roads are expensive to build and generate far less electricity than solar farms with the same budget. There are many, many obstacles to turning roads into huge solar panels.
The mileage of the global road network is between 21 million and 32 million kilometers. It seems reasonable to cover part of it with solar panels, which can generate a lot of electricity. In theory, as long as solar panels are installed on a small part of the road, it can generate enough energy to power the entire world. However, this can only be achieved under the best conditions: when the solar panels are in direct sunlight.
In a traditional solar farm, the solar panels face the sun to maximize efficiency. In a traditional solar farm, the solar panels face the sun to maximize efficiency. A typical solar panel can use about 20% of the energy produced by the sun. Optimizing the amount of light exposed by the panel is essential to running a cost-effective system.
On the other hand, compared with direct sunlight, laying solar panels flat will result in a 60% power shortage. Road solar panels are also easily blocked. Even if there is no driving car, these panels may be covered by dust, which will further limit the light they absorb. More than 5% of the shadow on the surface of the panel can reduce power generation by 50%.
Most importantly, solar panels fixed on the ground cannot benefit from air circulation, and may be hotter than solar panels on the roof, which reduces their efficiency. For every 1 degree Celsius above the optimal temperature, the solar panel will lose about 0.5% of its energy efficiency.
The characteristics of the glass itself further limit the ability of the road to generate electricity. The driving of the car and the accumulation of dust will accelerate the wear of the glass, and eventually the glass material will become opaque. The clarity of the glass will significantly reduce the ability of the panel to collect light. At the same time, in order to resist the crushing of vehicles, this piece of glass should be sufficient, which further reduces the light.
In December 2016, France launched a 1-km-long solar road composed of about 2,880 square meters of photovoltaic panels. It was the longest solar road in the world at that time. The road cost about 5.2 million U.S. dollars, and its purpose is to generate enough electricity to power street lights in nearby towns. However, this never happened.
By 2018, the road was already deteriorating and 90 meters of it had been demolished. Rotting leaves on the road, cracks in the panels, and lack of sunlight in the area all made it far less efficient than expected.
After installation in France, a test section was installed near the border between Alabama and Georgia in the United States. In December 2020, Peachtree City, Georgia officially launched the first solar-powered highway in the United States. The device will generate more than 1,300 kilowatt-hours of energy each year, which will be used to charge local electric cars. Because this road is brand new, there is not much information available about its durability. However, since this road and the French road were made using the same technology, one can think that this road may begin to degenerate within a few years.
In fact, my country’s Jinan also has a solar-powered highway. This road was opened in 2017 and is more than 1 km long. But now it has encountered various problems, and eventually it was removed most of it.
Although there are many great ideas, solar roads designed for cars may not be among them.
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