Thursday, February 4, 2016

Die solar roads. Just die.

Humans are quite smart for hairless apes. But sometimes I wonder whether we really do have the edge over our distant cousins.

Here’s an example. Solar roads. For some reason the most idiotic idea ever still seems to gain popular attention and funding. France is now committing to investment in solar roads.

But, you are thinking, that actually does sound quite interesting with a lot of potential. Oh how innovative.

I know right? The urge to jump on board this idea seems irresistible. But that’s our monkey brain doing the thinking. Because when you switch on your rational mind the whole this looks like a big joke.

Our instincts are not good at thinking about a new idea in relation to a particular alternative. It takes conscious rational thinking to realise that for this to be a good idea, we need to think of alternatives to compare it to. Our default is to compare solar roads to no solar investment, hence the urge to think it sounds great.

So here’s an alternative. Solar panels anywhere but roads!

The solar roads concept also implies it is solving a problem that doesn’t exist. In this case, a problem of insufficient space for solar panels. But that is absolutely not a problem. Estimates suggest there are 400sqkms of just residential roofs space in Australia that could accommodate solar panels. More than enough to our total electricity needs, and that ignores the large industrial and commercial spaces available.

Here’s my very brief list of why the idea is stupid.
  1. Roads have things on them that block the sun, like cars, people, trees and buildings shading them and so forth. 
  2. Roads cannot be angled to efficiently capture sunlight. 
  3. Roads get dirty. 
  4. Roads need a superstructure above the solar panel that will reduce efficiency. 
  5. Building solar roads means expensive excavations and repairs that will block traffic flow. 
  6. The technology to do it is rubbish. 
You may have heard that in Amsterdam there is a trial of a solar bike path. I think the title of this article sums up their result “That Fancy New Solar Bike Path In Amsterdam Is Utter Bullshit"

That article says it all.

What about an better alternative? How about building a roof over bikeways covered in solar? This alternative has a few things going for it
  1. No excavation 
  2. Cheaper 
  3. Keeps cyclists dry 
  4. Keeps snow off the bike path, meaning less ploughing 
  5. Can be angled to the sun 
  6. Is proven technology 
  7. Provides shade in hot climates 
Plus more.

And, it has been done before quite successfully.

So please, turn off your monkey brain. And when your friends on social media get excited about solar roads, send them here. Or send them this.

1 comment:

  1. Covered bike paths - YES, YES, YES! (This is my idea for a long time, did you steal it.--))

    ReplyDelete