Route 66, which runs for about 2,500 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, has been made popular in movies, songs, a TV series and much more through the decades.
Recently this road made a different kind of history. It is soon to become the first public roadway to receive a solar panel makeover.
The folks from Solar Roadways who are working on this project say that if all the roads and walking surfaces in the U.S. were covered with hexagonal solar panels, they would generate three times as much energy as Americans now use.
But that’s not all these solar roads would do. They could be programmed to serve as signs to alert drivers to dangers ahead, and they could be heated up to melt falling snow.
Obviously this type of road would be more expensive to build and is many years from being completed. But this is an example of solar breakthroughs that we should be aware of.
Let’s take a look at a few more:
Solar Storage Advances
The most important part of an off-grid system is the batteries. The science behind lead-acid batteries has not advanced much in 100 years. But lithium-ion batteries are quickly becoming available at the size and price needed for solar applications.
Solar Thermal Catching Up
Solar thermal has been largely forgotten in the clean energy revolution of the last few years. The ugly solar water heating units that were popular in the 1970s haven’t changed all that much.
Fortunately, today’s collectors are twice as efficient as the older panels. They also look better and function with less sunlight than ever. Plus, they are becoming easier to integrate into an existing home’s water heating systems.
Solar on Everyday Items
Roadways aren’t the only things that innovative people are thinking about when it comes to attaching solar cells. Before too long we might see solar cells on window glass or wall coverings. Or, how would you like to have a solar tarp in your survival kit? That’s another possibility.
Solar Prices Coming Down
The best news is that it’s getting more affordable every year to buy and build solar power systems. When I first started looking into this, solar was expensive and there were no incentives available. Typical prices for a complete system were about $10 per watt.
Now you can find complete systems that you can install yourself for less than $3 per watt. The rapid price declines, and how easy it is to install a system these days, mean more people will be able to say goodbye to the power monopolies forever.