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Solar panel shading structures covering highways and roads

Image credit: KOA campground

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Sep 08, 2020
Solar panel shading structures covering the highways and roads.

Three is no shortage of highways and roads anywhere in the world. By covering all or parts of them with solar panel shading structures, the benefits are:

  • increased solar power production without using space that can otherwise be used to host life (agriculture, housing, forests)
  • additional use of otherwise "dead" space
  • reduced road decay because of shading
  • reduced need for air cooling while driving
  • if in the future the structures are no longer needed, the components (steel, glass) are fully recyclable
What are the potential downsides to this idea?

Who needs to see this idea to make a good prototype and publicize the hell out of it? Then hopefully electricity-producing roads can become standard practice in the world.
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Creative contributions

Canals!

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Mar 30, 2021
That is a great idea, another similar idea, with perhaps an even more symbiotic nature, is covering canals with solar panels.
The coverage prevents evaporation, which can save billions of gallons of water annually, while the water running beneath the panels will cool them, making them more effective as well!

There have been a couple of articles on this idea

Sadly though, I have not really seen it implemented outside of India.

[1]https://www.ecowatch.com/solar-panels-california-canals-2651172983.html

[2]https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200803-the-solar-canals-revolutionising-indias-renewable-energy

Rechargeable concrete battery

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic May 24, 2021
This was inspired by Juran's contribution.

A rechargeable cement-based battery was developed, with an average energy density of 7 Wh/m2 (or 0.8 Wh/L) during six charge/discharge cycles. It would be amazing if this technology could be further developed to store electricity in the road pavement itself. Then the roads could store electricity that is generated by the photovoltaic panels above.

Tripple use of the road real estate:
  • driving
  • energy production
  • energy storage


[1]https://www.mdpi.com/2075-5309/11/3/103

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic2 months ago
Also, various kinetic batteries could be placed anywhere alongside the power-producing roads:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmrwdTGZxGk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X2U7bDNcPM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66YRCjkxIcg

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General comments

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Jerry Tvrdek
Jerry Tvrdek6 months ago
Downsides I can think of:

1. There is a necessary clearance for most bridges and this clearance has to be maintained across the whole system in order for trucks and heavy machinery to flow through. Let's estimate the clearance is 4 meters, that means all the beams supporting this structure will have to be 4 meters tall as well. This means more material needed for the supporting beams, which when scaled, will add a lot of cost.

2. The structures will make it harder to follow road signs as they visually interfere with the observable area.

3. The traffic generates a lot of dust which will settle on the solar panels.

4. I've mentioned the clearance. How do you replace a panel which is 4 meters high? Where do the maintenance workers park their car on a busy highway? How do they get up there? What about the energy for the tools they need? Where do they park a crane?

What you are solving:
1. Increased solar power production without using space that can otherwise be used to host life (agriculture, housing, forests) – this is more of an aesthetical problem than a real problem. There is enough space for solar panels, they don't have to be concentrated around a specific infrastructure or area.
2. Additional use of otherwise "dead" space – The space is not dead. It is occupied by road signs and bridges.
3. Reduced road decay because of shading – the price of building and maintaining such structures probably vastly exceeds a new layer of tarmac.
4. Reduced need for air cooling while driving – there is not really a need for this when driving, as most cars have a/c
5. if in the future the structures are no longer needed, the components (steel, glass) are fully recyclable – this is not really a benefit.

In general, seems like a cool sci-fi idea that to fall in love with but in reality will be mostly unfeasable. However, it makes a lot of sense on parking lots.
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Vishal Chamling
Vishal Chamling6 months ago
Superb idea. The only potential downside I can think of right now is the installation cost and magnitude of the project.
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Muhammad M Rahman
Muhammad M Rahman6 months ago
This is a great idea for generating energy but how about running solar panels on lane separating barriers along the highway instead? This would not hinder the view when driving and at the same time, if angled correctly and positioned accordingly you could still generate electricity in the night from car headlights.
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Martina Pesce
Martina Pesce9 months ago
The only downside I can think about is the eventual risk of ruining a panoramic view. In many countries (for example Spain, France, and Italy, but I am sure there must be many more) there are some stunningly beautiful panoramic highways, which would be a pity to esthetically ruin with these big constructions.
"Luckily", not all highways are so beautiful, so the rest should totally be covered by this beautiful idea.
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Udruga Mladih UMNO
Udruga Mladih UMNO10 months ago
Ideal. And mae it like a tunnel in towns to stop toxic fumes. Make a carbon dioxide extraction system in tunnels. Also it would reduce noise.