Solar roadways are an innovation that is aimed at production of clean energy and therefore a cleaner environment. As the name suggests these are roads that have solar panels within their structure. The solar energy they trap is an inexhaustible source of energy (Northmore and Tighe, 2012). This make the project sustainable as is the critical requirement in engineering designs. The aim of the design is to maximize its performance and in turn be of benefit to the society in terms of improving their standards of living (Wu, M.S., Huang, H.H., Huang, B.J., Tang, C.W. and Cheng, C.W.,pg 1935, 2009).
The purpose of this project is to have roads that have better performance surfaces while at the same time producing renewable electricity. The electricity generated from these roads could either be sold to the national grid or used by the nearest buildings. A lot of considerations have to be undertaken before embarking on the construction of these roads to determine the feasibility of the project.
In terms of the weight that the solar roadways can handle it was determined that they can handle trucks that are up to 250, 000lbs (Solarroadways.com. (2017)). This means that all locomotives, tanks included, can use the roads. They are therefore feasible in terms of the amount of weight that they can handle.
The hardness of the material used to make them is impervious. Hardness is measured by an instrument known as Mohs scale which shows the resistance of the material to being scratched. The resistance is measured on a scale of 1 to 10 with the softest material being 1 and the hardest at 10. The roads are compared to asphalt roads in which the asphalt has a hardness of 1.3 while the glass used to make solar roadways has a hardness of between 5.5 and 6.0. This is the reason the solar roads are impervious and therefore not easily damaged.
The strength of the glass used on the road is increased by tempering. Tempered glass is four to five times stronger. The tempering does not make the glass to be harder. It makes it stronger. It is such glass that is used as bomb and bulletproof glass. The glass is also less likely to be broken by extreme temperatures. This also supports the feasibility of the solar roadways project.
Another important feature to look into is the texture of the roads. Since they are made of glass additional texture had to be added to ensure that they had the required traction even when they are wet. As a result, many textures have been tested and finally the sufficient texture was acquired that was enough to stop a vehicle moving at 80mph when the surface is wet on the maximum distance (Solarroadways.com. (2017)). New textures are still being tested to ensure that the best are used for the project.
The durability of the solar roads is quite commendable. The panels are designed to for at least 20 years. More tests are being carried out to maximize the longevity of the solar roads. Such tests include loading test and environment test. The limitation about these roads is that the solar cells have a lifespan of about 30 years (Solarroadways.com. (2017). The repair will therefore be very costly since the cells will all have to be replaced. Also if the surface of the road becomes destroyed then it costs more to repair as compared to asphalt roads.
The solar panels are made in small hexagonal shapes to enable then to be easily installed on curvy surfaces. It is expected that in the future even more shapes of the panels will be introduced to ensure that the roads are even more flexible. The hexagonal shapes are also important in times of a collision since it spreads the force to many different adjacent cells and therefore minimizing damage.
In maintaining the cleanliness of the roads to ensure that the solar panels always produced maximum energy, various experiments have been carried out. These experiments are aimed at ensuring that the most economical cleaning methods are used. in this regard it is suggested that since most of the roads such as highways keep themselves clean as the dirt is blown away by th vehicles, the same concept is applicable for solar roads. The difference is that the solar roads need additional cleaning off of oil. This requires that titanium dioxide is used which changes oil and any greasy fluid into a powder that can be blown away (Agrawal, Rajat, and Dr. Om Prakash, pg 3, 2017). If this is still not effective enough then workers can be employed to do the cleaning in specific parts. This continues to show the comparison between asphalt roads and solar roads.
In conclusion, solar roads are a good idea but further research needs to done to eliminate the shortcomings. The project can fist be implemented on a small scale to test its working. By small scale I mean on pedestrian paths as opposed to highways. This way further research can be done and tested in real life. Once the project has achieved some level of perfection at a good cost then it can be implemented.
Northmore, A. and Tighe, S., 2012. Innovative Pavement Design: Are Solar Roads Feasible?. In? 2012 Conference and Exhibition of the Transportation Association of Canada-Transportation: Innovations and Opportunities. Agrawal, Rajat, and Dr. Om Prakash. 2017. ""Feasibility Study of Solar Roadways - IJIR.""? Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR)? , , pp. 1–5., doi:http://www.onlinejournal.in . Selvaraju, R.K., 2012. Characterization of Solar Roadways Via Computational and Experimental Investigations. Solarroadways.com. (2017).? Solar Roadways Specifics. [online] Available at: http://www.solarroadways.com/Specifics/Glass [Accessed 14 Nov. 2017]. Wu, M.S., Huang, H.H., Huang, B.J., Tang, C.W. and Cheng, C.W., 2009. Economic feasibility of solar-powered led roadway lighting.? Renewable energy,? 34(8), pp.1934-1938."