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Thread: solar electric transport question (from a science ignorant*)

  1. #1 solar electric transport question (from a science ignorant*) 
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    *ie don't use big techno terms or you'll lose me
    ok here's the question

    Has any research been done on developing a solar energy collection strip embedded in asphalt roads that could be transferred to vehicles whilst in motion?


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  3. #2  
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    ive vaguely heard about it. main problem is that it takes a lot of money to make and maintain our roads and this would triple the cost. next is that roads take a significant amount of abuse and this would ruin the photovoltaic effect of the material decreasing the energy output for every day it sits there.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Ph.D. Leszek Luchowski's Avatar
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    There is an article about it here.

    Note: I just found it on the internet. I take no responsibility for its content. Do not blame me if it's inaccurate.
    Leszek. Pronounced [LEH-sheck]. The wondering Slav.
    History teaches us that we don't learn from history.
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  5. #4  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    From memory Robert Heinlein (or some other SF author) suggested this in a short story back in the 1960s. But then Heinlein was nearly always better at doing exoctic right wing characters than he was at science.
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  6. #5  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    It wouldn't be worth while, because so much light will be blocked by buildings and traffic.

    Close to the equator that wouldn't be as big an issue, but for almost all of the developed world, rooftops are probably the most cost effective and ecological location for solar panels.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
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  7. #6  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    It wouldn't be worth while, because so much light will be blocked by buildings and traffic..
    That depends upon the cost of manufacture, installation and maintenance, and the efficiency of the conversion process.
    Moreover
    1. Large stretches of road are outside of cities
    2. The amount of road surface concealed by traffic, except in a full nlown traffic jam, is well below 25%.
    3. Shadows do not stop the conversion process they merely diminish it.
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  8. #7  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    You think it would be cheaper to put the same technology in a road, than it would to put the same technology on the side of the road or on a rooftop?


    It might be "worth it," but excuse me for using such ambiguities. What I meant is that there are more efficient means.

    Solar voltaic cells are not the most efficient form of solar electricity anyway, in forms of ecological cost and also in forms of energy conversion rates.

    Stirling has some more productive solar powered generators, focusing light onto a Stirling engine. Able to convert more than 30% of solar heat to electricity, vs voltaic cells which convert about half that, I might be wrong on that, but not too far off.

    I think there is more potential to combine infrastructures, like power lines and roads, and creating something like a complex tram/trolley system; off the ground, leaving more ground for plants, animals and pedestrians.

    In a tram system, computerization and gyroscopic mechanisms can be harnessed to make the vehicles as individuals, and the system as a whole, much more efficient in changing direction, such as when passing others, or taking turns; much faster, and much safer



    Putting solar panels in the road is one of those ideas that seems to me, as though it would get in the way of other more progressive projects.
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  9. #8  
    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Stirling has some more productive solar powered generators, focusing light onto a Stirling engine. Able to convert more than 30% of solar heat to electricity, vs voltaic cells which convert about half that, I might be wrong on that, but not too far off.
    Mass produced crystalline silicon cells are attaining an average of 17% efficiencies.
    Mass produced thin film cells are hovering at around 10% efficiency.
    The next two years should see both cell type efficiencies increase by roughly 20%.

    c-Si cells rely more heavily on mining of materials, and costs are centered on the price of silicon. Thin film cells are built on glass panels where thin strips of metal are sequentially deposited until the cell walls are built up. Thin film cells tend to be significantly cheaper than c-Si cells on both the consumer and manufacturing sides. It's a trade-off between cost and efficiency. You can often get more out of the cheaper panels (even though they are less efficient) since you can put up so many more of them for roughly the same price.

    Another company just achieved cell efficiency of around 45%, but these are not done in mass production, and are currently slated for use primarily by NASA for space applications.


    As per the OP, we need to get energy creation everywhere possible, and should not limit any ideas. However, from a practicality standpoint, the limitations and obstacles of a solar array installation as part of a paved road far outweigh the slight benefit of doing so. It's much better to use solar generation where you can have utility grade solar farms (large plots of land loaded with panels) and feed that in via efficient transmission lines to where the demand is. Then, you could simply supplement that overall supply with local rooftop installations at rest stops and service stations along the highways.
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  10. #9  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    You think it would be cheaper to put the same technology in a road, than it would to put the same technology on the side of the road or on a rooftop?
    I'm not expressing opinions in this thread, just making objective observations. For example, the technology can be put in both places. However, I favour covering roofs (flat ones) with plants. I think you'll agree that trees in the middle of the highway would be counterproductive.
    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Solar voltaic cells are not the most efficient form of solar electricity anyway, in forms of ecological cost and also in forms of energy conversion rates..
    This is currently true. It may not always be true. The ultimate conversion rate and cost per kilowatt hour may be lowest with solar panels, or it may not.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    Indeed, plants are nice. That's why I mentioned using trams, so we can get rid of roads all but entirely.

    And things do change, I'm not saying lets stop trying to get things better. To the contrary, one could say that accepting the inevitability of progress, people would be less motivated to participate in it.
    Dick, be Frank.

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