Solar panels are part of Missouri transportation project

Solar panels are part of Missouri transportation project
Credit: solarroadways

Missouri's Route 66 is going to be making its marks in the solar area through a special project. Claire Bernish in the Free Thought Project reported that Missouri's Department of Transportation is planning an innovative reworking of historic Route 66—a section of which will be covered in solar panels from the Idaho company, Solar Roadways.

Solar Roadways was the topic of a June 5 article in The Kansas City Star, which reported that among the Missouri Department of Transportation pilot projects was this one, to use at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway, Mo.

"We expect them to be in place, I'm hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies," Tom Blair, leader of the department's Road to Tomorrow Initiative, said.

Where will you find them? Solar Roadways' website said the panels will be used in "a sidewalk area at a rest stop on the historic Route 66 in Conway, Missouri."

No doubt more than a few people know about the company. A "Solar FREAKIN' Roadways" video has drawn over 21 million views since it was posted in 2014.

It's all about solar panels, said the video presenter, and not just boring panels but smart, microprocessing interlocking, hexagonal solar units.

Lisa Suhay of The Christian Science Monitor said they had tested various textures and panel shapes before deciding on hexagons.

Meanwhile, about those microprocessers: Steve Hanley in Gas2 talked about how the panels' microprocessors can enable panel to panel communications and communication with a central control center. Also, said Hanley, they can communicate with vehicles driving on them.

Because the panels are modular, roads could easily be repaired without major disruptions of traffic. You can replace a panel at a time, if damaged or malfunctioning.

The panels are covered with a tempered-glass material. These tempered glass hexagonal panels weigh about 70 pounds, wrote Lisa Suhay in The Christian Science Monitor.

Each panel has a series of LED lights on the circuit board that can be programmed to make warning signs, landscaping signs, and other types of signs—no need for using paint.

That's not all; the features carry added potential where the "LED light colors can be selected to match city flags and the colors of events," said the company site.

The panels are also being promoted as beneficial in cold weather conditions, when icy, snowy roads carry risks of accidents and traffic slowdowns. The panels are textured for slip resistance, said Suhay. The panels can warm up to keep roads free of ice and snow.

The makers were awarded a contract from the Federal Highway Administration to build two prototypes, said the video, which are now complete.

The department provided startup funding; the makers turned to an Indiegogo campaign to push the product into independent production.

"We are so grateful to each person who helped us on our way. This funding enabled us to buy a building with both office space and manufacturing space, purchase equipment, hire employees, buy materials, and continue moving forward."

Hanley commented: "It's an interesting idea, and one that deserves to be explored. Eliminating the need to plow roads in winter could certainly save cities and states huge amounts of money, more than offsetting the cost of solar roads."

What's next: The Solar Roadways team said on their site: "We have completed two funding contracts with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and were just awarded a third contract in November 2015. Then people from all over the world decided to help speed our progress via our Indiegogo Campaign which you can read more about on our Funding page. Our goal is to modernize the infrastructure with modular, intelligent panels, while producing clean renewable energy for homes."

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Jul 04, 2016
"Because the panels are modular, roads could easily be repaired without major disruptions of traffic. You can replace a panel at a time, if damaged or malfunctioning."

So can regular roads - a guy comes along in a truck and fills the cracks and potholes with bitumen.

The problem is that the road bed is "alive", it swells and pits because of water movements in and on the ground, and because the cars above slowly vibrate the bed which makes it somewhat fluid and wavy over time. Eventually the road gets in such a bad way that you just have to grind it up into gravel, level the bed again and re-surface it completely.

That means the panels will get slowly squeezed together and ground to pieces, or pulled apart and cracks will appear between them that cannot be fixed by swapping out modules - you need a guy to come in and pour hot bitumen in the crack. Then eventually you need to dig it up and rebuild the whole road.

Jul 04, 2016
Yea, having signs in a roadway will not cause too many accidents. Looking down a few feet in front of your car and not looking far enough ahead is a major cause of highway crashes.

This is a major waste of taxpayer money. I wonder how much the company donated to political campaigns to get this plum?

Jul 04, 2016
Also, I really doubt that wet oily glass has the same traction and skid resistance as asphalt or cement.

Jul 04, 2016
Also, I really doubt that wet oily glass has the same traction and skid resistance as asphalt or cement.

Neither of those have very good traction when smooth and polished and wet. The rough surface texture makes it.

Asphalt is somewhat adhesive, but not when wet and cold.

Jul 04, 2016
In Missouri? Really???
I live in Missouri and can't believe it could be so forward thinking.
Please don't misunderstand me, I think this is a terribly stupid idea.
I agree with MR166, about bad drivers looking at the road. Why give them an actual reason to do so? Also, this idea requires a stable climate, which Missouri does Not have, We get extremes of heat and cold, across the entire state, that's why our roads get so torn up. 50 to 60 years ago, some parts of the country did have a relatively stable. That is no longer the case and it is getting worse. Even with a stable climate, one good wreck and the road crew has double the work to do. First, repair the road bed, then replace the damaged panels. What about dust, dirt debris, snow and car shadows? Solar panels are nowhere near as efficient as they need to be and buried under all the crap, they will never pay for themselves.

Jul 04, 2016
Furthermore, all that crap will constantly grind away at the glass surface reducing the traction and efficiency of the panels even more. All in all, just stupid, worthless and outrageously expensive, like the proposed plastic roads of Rotterdam.

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