Hello BEST members,

This week in the BioEnergy and Sustainability School we are looking at the topic of sustainable transportation. An emerging technology in this field are solar roads. "It's made of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased in concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass" [3]. Solar roads main benefit is that they use already developed land in order to produce energy. However, there are a few challenges to be faced before they become a common sighting such as installation costs and energy efficiency.

While installation of the solar roads cost more than traditional asphalt, solar roads have the added benefit of earning revenue over time. However, solar roads have a projected life of 25 - 30 years which is about 10 years longer than a normal road. In addition, the efficiency of these cells is impeded by being fixed flat on roads. Areas with high traffic could also be a problem due to shading from vehicles. Sidewalks intended for bikes and foot traffic would be ideal locations along with suburban roads that have less cover. The buildup of street sweepings will need to be taken into consideration in order to ensure maximum efficiency. These cells must work at maximum efficiency during the short amount of time they receive direct sunlight.

In 2014 the Netherlands installed a solar bike path that was deemed successful and inspired others to expand on this idea. Currently, France is bringing this concept to a larger stage.  In the next 5 years construction will be completed on 621 miles (1000 km) of roads and produce 8% of the country's energy demands. These solar roads have also been tested for traction and durability. Throughout their lifetime, these roads will be subjected to salt, oil, and other chemicals that haven't appeared to be taken into great consideration. It will also be helpful to have data showing return on investment after installation, maintenance, and energy production over their lifetime.

[1] Solar roadways: A way forward for renewables?
Feb 2, 2016

I included two other current articles that I used for reference and found to have interesting perspectives.

[2] University to build $110,000 solar road that will power just 40 personal computers for 8 hours/day
American Thinker
April 8, 2016

[3] Will We Soon Be Riding on Solar Roads? The Idea Gains Traction
National Geographic
March 10, 2016

Gillian Palino
Undergraduate Intern
2016 BioEnergy & Sustainability School
Soil and Water Science Department