We live in the electronic era, a time when every device we touch and use on daily basis is electrically or battery powered. We even began to produce electric vehicles and replace the fuel or any other resource with electricity wherever is possible. This contributes to using huge amounts of electric power on a global scale.
A lot of countries, especially the fast-growing and more populated ones, try to resolve this issue or to decrease the power usage by a larger factor. One of the pioneers of overcoming the electrical usage, of course, is China. The country already produces three-quarters of the world supply of solar panels. In addition, China is one of the biggest manufacturers of wind turbines in the world as well.
Aiming the low-electricity usage, China now develops a new solution, a solar-paneled highway. Although, solar roads is not the newest of ideas, China has a different approach of the modification of the solar panels that are installed replacing the asphalt. This way, they don’t just produce free electricity, but also conserve a lot of land, instead of packing the desert and fields with solar panels, and for a high-populated country like China, this is a huge thing and a great success.
The second great usage of the panels is improving the driving experience on a few levels. The panels can be used to heat the roads during winter, so no road will ever be frozen again. In addition, using a complex polymer that resembles plastic, as a surface of these panels, has friction resulting in tire grip similar to the one of the asphalt. Using the panels and the grip, China plans to use this roads to power the electric powered cars driving on them, which will be of great help for the drivers.
One of the biggest pros for building solar roads, of course, is the renewable energy factor and the decrease of the pollution of the environment, using more environment-friendly materials than asphalt for building the solar roads.
For now, this type of road is being built in Shandong Province, in Jinan, by the two solar leading companies Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation, mostly for testing purposes. The test are mainly to see how much energy will be renew, what are the actual maintenance costs, what would the driving experience will be like and etc. and to get to a conclusion about the usefulness and the profitability of the solar roads.
In conclusion, after running the tests, the companies gathered a lot of data that can be used to improve and modify the solar roads for greater efficiency and profitability. With this type of roads, the cost of this panels is big and the energy produced is very low, because of all the vehicles stopping the panels from absorbing the solar energy and the position of the panels is not effective 100% or by the same rate along the whole road. However, China will be saving a lot of money in maintenance, because they don’t need to be repaired as often as the asphalt roads and they do produce energy. One other concern is that a lot of these panels started “disappearing” once they were installed, which show that the panels have to be installed more securely to prevent thieves from easily getting to them. Although, the results are not what the companies hoped for, they still remain hopeful, knowing that with modifying and changing things they can make better efficient solar roads in the future.