A SaveOnEnergy.com Blog Article
These days you can find solar power everywhere. It’s not just on rooftops or soaking up rays in expansive fields. You can find solar-powered calculators, cell phone chargers, grills and even bikinis. So it only makes sense that solar is making its debut on the road.
For more than a decade Scott and Julie Brusaw have been trying to turn the nation’s highways into energy-gathering solar panels. The couple has even created special hexagonal-shaped solar cells that are durable enough for use on the road. According to their calculations, covering the nation’s 28,000 square miles of highways, roads and parking pads with the panels could generate three times the power consumed in the United States today.
These solar cells will do more than generate energy. Each panel is built with a casing, similar to bulletproof glass, that can withstand up to 250,000 pounds. They also come with heating elements that can melt snow and ice, reducing hazardous driving conditions in the winter. The panels are even equipped with lights that can notify drivers of hazardous conditions or accidents further down the road.
The Brusaws’ business, Solar Roadways, has already garnered the support of the federal government. In fact, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration has awarded Solar Roadways funding for research and development. With that funding, the Solar Roadways team built a parking lot prototype, which sits just outside of their engineering lab in Sagle, Idaho. The parking pad alone can create the same solar output of a 3,600 watt solar array. Now the company is getting ready to ramp up manufacturing to make the dream of solar roads a reality.
While the project may seem like a simple solution to improving the nation’s energy infrastructure, it will come at a price. It’s estimated that a wide-spread implementation of solar roads will cost $56 trillion—about 20 times the annual federal budget. While these solar panels are more durable, they will still cost at least 50 percent more than an asphalt road. The Brusaws contend that the solar roads would pay for themselves in 22 years, but the initial investment may hamper widespread implementation of the technology and impact the price of electricity.
Solar Auxiliary Power Systems
Roads aren’t the only thing getting a solar makeover. There are also innovations working to make thetrucking industry more green. eNow has created solar panels that the transportation industry can use to reduce operational costs and greenhouse gases. These panels can capture enough energy to power HVAC, refrigeration, lighting, lift gate and battery charging systems. One of the most beneficial uses of this technology is in emergency vehicles.
Emergency vehicles rely on their engines to power safety lighting reliably. Because this is done often and for extended periods of time, the idling can be harmful to both the environment and the bottom line. Just one hour of idling consumes 1 gallon of fuel and emits 19 pounds of carbon dioxide.
The eNow solar charger for safety lighting completely eliminates the need for wasteful idling. With the 200 watt system, emergency personnel can power safety lights for up to 15 hours per day without using the engine. In a case study, eNow examined the efficiency of the solar battery charger over a nine-month period, and found that the device improved efficiency an average of 47 percent. In a year, the improved fuel economy could save $3,485, allowing the system to pay for itself in the first 12 months.
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