I have to give the creators of Solar Freakin’ Roadways a huge amount of credit. Maybe you’ve heard of them or the fascinating concept they’ve come up with.
A husband and wife team – the husband has a master’s degree in electrical engineering – set out to raise $1 million for a project they hoped would prove that every roadway, parking lot, sidewalk, driveway, tarmac, bike path and outdoor recreation surface in the world could be covered with smart solar panels.
They claim these hexagonal, interlocking solar panels will not only generate significant amounts of clean energy, but also light up with safety notices for drivers, create lane configurations, melt snow and ice, improve visibility, and much more.
Money Is Pouring In
So far they’ve raised more than twice as much money as they originally set out to raise, including a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. How did they do it?
One of their strategies was the creation of a seven-minute video describing how Solar Freakin’ Roadways works and what the potential benefits could be. It’s a very impressive video, and millions of people have seen it.
You can check it out here:
What do I think about this project that has already cost taxpayers money and promises to cost us a lot more if it moves on to the next step? Well, let’s just say that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Here Are the Claims
Before I tell you exactly why I feel that way about Solar Freakin’ Roadways, let’s look at what the designers say about it.
They say the glass surface will be tough enough to drive on and pave roads with. It will withstand the weight of countless multi-ton trucks.
They say the solar panels will generate enough electricity to pay for themselves. In fact, they claim that if all road surfaces in the U.S. were paved with their product, three times the amount of energy that Americans currently use would be generated.
They say these intelligent, micro-processing, interlocking hexagonal solar units will light up to form lanes on roads and parking lot configurations for cars, as well as landing strips for airplanes.
They say the panels will be pressure sensitive so they’ll be able to warn drivers of safety hazards ahead, such as fallen tree limbs and boulders.
They say that in cold weather the panels will use the power they collect from the sun to keep the road surface a few degrees above freezing, melting snow and ice.
They say that because these panels will replace asphalt and other materials currently used for constructing roads, they will be more environmentally friendly.
They say that the manufacturing and installation of these solar panels will create thousands of new jobs.
Whew! That’s a lot of claims. They did not – I repeat, DID NOT – say that Solar Freakin’ Roadways will cure cancer. I know because after hearing everything they said this project would accomplish, I watched their video several times again and listened for that claim.
The Guinea Pig is France
But apparently a lot of people believe what they do say about their project because there are plans to pave a small portion of Route 66 with this stuff, and France has committed to using it on some 620 miles of roadway over the next five years.
Here’s the problem with this project as I view it. Let’s see, how can I word this professionally and politely? Hmmmm. OK, how about this: It’s all a bunch of crap!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s a scam. I’m sure the folks behind the project sincerely believe in it and want to see it work and make the world a better place.
And I definitely give them kudos for being able to raise more than $2 million dollars for the research and development. But just believing in something is not enough.
Where’s the Beef?
The truth is, the concept is unrealistic. It’s a dream scenario without a chance of success. The bottom line is, after five-plus years of working on this, there is a long list of things they have been unable to demonstrate.
As one critic has asked, “Where’s the proof? Where’s the real world evidence and data that shows it’s possible?” Quite frankly, it doesn’t exist.
What They’re NOT Demonstrating
Among the things they have not proven are:
They don’t demonstrate how much power is generated by their prototype.
They only show the LED lights working at night, not during the day.
They only show the LED lights from above (at night), not the angle from which a driver would be trying to see them.
They don’t show how the glass surface will remain transparent enough, after being driven over hundreds of thousands of times by cars and trucks, for the lights to shine through.
They don’t demonstrate whether cars and trucks will be able to stop quickly on this type of surface.
They don’t show whether the surface is capable of supporting anything more than a small tractor.
They don’t show the panels heating up and melting ice and snow.
They don’t provide the details that prove the reliability of their complex electronics network.
They don’t demonstrate there will be any real return on investment.
On the Surface, It’s a Problem
Something that is included in one of their written reports – but conveniently left out of the video – is that they still require $50 million just to determine whether the glass surface can be developed that will make all this possible.
That alone should make people hesitant to get excited about this and pour their investment money into it. And it should make taxpayers ticked off that their money is going into this project.
Some of the strongest glass we have right now is used for the front of cellphones. But if you drop your phone on cement from waist high, it will probably shatter.
Claiming Is Not Proving
These folks are very good at making claims and awesome at raising money. I’ll give them that. But are they great at taking what sounds like a wonderful concept and turning it into reality?
No. Solar Freakin’ Roadways is nothing more than a very elaborate dream that will never even come close to becoming reality. There are way too many logistic problems with it.
To your survival,
P.S. The concept of solar roadways generating clean energy is good, but only on the surface. (No pun intended.) It’s far too complex to work and would end up costing much more than it’s worth. But a small, lightweight device you can use to jump a dead battery – easily and by yourself – is realistic, something you can afford and something you should never be without.
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