It might just happen … roads covered in solar panels. But why? Solar panels collect and store energy generated from the sun to power things in and around our homes, and they don’t harm the environment while doing so. Although the idea of solar energy was discovered in the late 1830s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the first silicon solar cell was produced commercially. Those first solar cells were used in space, but more recently, solar panels have become a bit more commonplace. Ever see solar panels on the roof of a house or building, or lined up in rows in wide open spaces? It’s a neat invention and one that several companies are trying to make even more useful.
That’s where solar roads come in. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Roads already exist, and they’re constantly exposed to sunlight. In China, one company is already testing out their idea with a small road covered in solar panels. The hope is to not only use these panels to collect energy but to also help in other ways like melting snow that falls on the roads and lighting up the road to alert drivers of a turn or other potential hazard up ahead. Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. Solar roads are still a long way away. What are two of the biggest hurdles? Durability and cost. While roads made of concrete or asphalt might need repaving or filling every few years, the cost of doing those things is relatively low. Replacing solar panels, on the other hand, can be quite costly. But not to worry—solar companies are working on strengthening these solar panels and believe that they can build panels that are not only stronger and more durable than concrete and asphalt, but that are also cheaper to replace as well. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next, but it seems like there’s a bright road ahead.
What do you think? Are solar roads in our future?