Going green is the new mantra and measures are being taken around the world to conserve energy. Taking this endeavour a step forward, the authorities concerned have come up with a plan - the 'solar roadway' -
to pave sections of the famous Route 66 highway in the United States with solar panels.
In a first-of-its-kind project, solar panels will be installed on Route 66 as part of Missouri’s ‘Road to Tomorrow’ initiative, which focuses on improvements such as smart highways and incorporating renewable energy. The historic highway extends from Chicago to Los Angeles.
The hi-tech makeover comes as a result of a partnership between the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and smart energy startup Solar Roadways, which aims to bring “the history and the future together.”
There are two current variants of the solar roadway programme - a semi-smooth surface for light traffic and a rougher surface designed for highways and heavier traffic. The solar panel roads offer the same benefits as their concrete and asphalt counterparts and then some more. Not only does it generate energy, but also remains ice-free, thereby not requiring any efforts to clear ice during the winter.
This new technology will also help get rid of the problem of dealing with those pesky potholes and allow cables and wires to be stored underneath the roads. Electric poles susceptible to damaged by harsh weather will no longer be required. Besides, the solar roadway system will provide a warning system informing drivers about a car crash, natural disaster etc.
The programme will go through its first test when the LED-embedded solar panels will be used to generate electricity for the Route 66 Welcome Centre at Conway.
Though it has multiple benefits, the programme comes with its share of cons and has been met with a mixture of public glee and pragmatic criticism.
There is also the problem of maintenance as ensuring the solar panels are operating at maximum capacity at all times will drain the US treasury.
Some even suggest that a better alternative will be regular solar panels as these panels can track the movement of the sun, gaining more energy, while the flat solar roadway will have to wait until light shines directly on them.
While the endeavour will cost the American taxpayer in the short run, it will allow the average taxpayer to pay less on their electricity bill in the long run, it is believed.
The initiative is at the forefront of revolutionising green energy with solar-powered road panels to form a smart highway. There are also plans to turn parking lots, footpaths, driveways and streets into sources of green energy.
What do you think of this project? Do you think Qatar, which gets ample sunlight, should consider developing such technology?
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