Bright future for solar roads?

Think about your first time behind the wheel. Plenty has changed about cars since you learned to drive, including GPS systems and the mobile device that shouldn’t distract you. However, the surface you drive on just hasn’t kept up. Asphalt is stuck in the stone age.

An Idaho startup, Solar Roadways, believes that it’s time to change that. Why doesn’t pavement generate power from the sun that beats down on it all day? With LED lights built in, roads could become emergency signs, warning of a wreck around the bend. And an integrated heating element could melt snow and ice, rendering salt and snowplows superfluous.

Solar Roadways promises all that and more — like no more potholes (or pothole repair crews causing backups.) And the company has attracted an astonishing amount of attention online. One of its videos was viewed more than 16 million times over the last month, and a “crowd-funding” campaign on the site Indiegogo has pulled in more than $2 million.

While the concept clearly catches the imagination, most people who have researched, funded, or tried to roll out solar projects will tell you that surface streets and freeways are probably the last places they would want to deploy solar panels. “This seems like one of the longest putts you could come up with in solar,” says Ian Bowles, an energy investor at Windsail Capital and former energy official in Massachusetts and Washington. — Full Story at Boston Globe

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