As the internet is full of “trolls” and “haters”, of course, all kinds of people came out of the woodwork to tell the inventors of Solar Roadways how stupid their invention was, and the inventors took offense to it releasing this official rebuttal.
I figure I’ll offer a rebuttal to their rebuttal because, in my opinion, they’re still missing a few screws.
Here’s all of the claims that they claim are “false claims” and my responses to them.
Solar Roadways: “False Claim: We picked a really stupid place to put solar panels”
Me: I suppose that you could make an argument that “no place is a stupid place to put solar panels”… but you’d only continue to sound like an idiot. There are plenty of stupid places to put solar panels… like… underground, inside your house, underwater, and underneath a surface that 1,000,000 vehicles, including 18-wheelers drive on every day. I think that anyone who really thinks about it would agree that the roadways are a really stupid place to put solar panels.
Solar Roadways: “False Claim: Solar Roadways [are] going to cost $60 trillion dollars” … “But right now, not even we have that information, so if you read an article where a journalist claims to have any data on costs, you can be assured that they have not done their homework and are quoting another unreliable source or they are making up numbers. “
Me: Well if you were worth your weight in snot, you’d have at-least done some kind of cost-benefit analysis before you wasted tax payer dollars building these little toys in your garage. So maybe it is you that needs to do your homework, sir. No one knows for sure that solar roadways will cost $60 trillion or $59 trillion obviously, but some pretty basic estimating can be done by people who are familiar with this kind production in volume to quickly guesstimate that your goal of “creating a road that pays for itself” is going to be off by several orders of magnitude.
Furthermore, the rebuttal completely contradicts itself stating that they started the project with a price-point goal of $10k per panel. Obviously a bucket of asphalt doesn’t cost $10k and they’re setting this as the price goal because they’re surely, arrogantly, thinking that they can sell the taxpayers on the idea that Solar Roadways will cost less than a bucket of asphalt to maintain only once maintenance cost reductions are factored in (as if they had those numbers anyway). Furthermore, they’re arrogantly claiming that solar roadways are going to eliminate the need for snow plows… which I’m sure they’re factoring into their price targets 100% to paint a pretty picture that <$10k per square foot is a bargain.
The second law of thermodynamics will surely prove to be their Achilles Heel however, because the more “features” they pack into these things, the greater potential for failure. If a panel breaks, you’ll need to send out a technician to remove the panel and replace it. This, presumably will cost more than a smattering of tar. A car accident could potentially knock out power to neighborhoods… hackers could hack into the panels and potentially wreak havoc on the system. These panels have many many more points of failure than a bucket of asphalt… the “storm water treatment” system (really wtf? seriously?) “cable corridors”, LED configurations with data lines to coordinate the pixel layouts, and VCC lines… all those things can fail.. and when they fail, they can potentially bring down other systems with them, and if they aren’t designed properly, problems with one could cascade to other panels… not to mention potential failures in the core components of the product: the road surface and the solar panels themselves. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the maintenance costs and failure rates for these things are going to be insane… so therefore why on earth would you want your power and smart-grid to be married to your roadways? Decoupling the two would always, always, always be more cost effective.
Solar Roadways: “False Claim: Asphalt roads are cheap and maintainable… from: Smart Growth America: ‘State departments of transportation (DOTs) are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have-despite the fact that roads are crumbling, financial liabilities are mounting and conditions are not improving for America’s drivers.'”
Me: Congratulations, idiot! You just made one claim which you debunked all by yourself in the very next paragraph. I’m not sure that your data is accurate anyway, because the numbers you quote from this activist site do not match the DOT numbers… but assuming that your fuzzy numbers are even accurate, if the DOT is spending 99% of its funds building new roads and only 1% of its funding maintaining existing roads… then that must mean that the existing roads are comparatively cheap to maintain when compared to the initial construction costs. Although this statement makes no comparative claims as to what the maintenance costs will be for asphalt vs. solar roadways and therefore answers really nothing in the affirmative or negative… it clearly offers no support to your rebuttal and therefore doesn’t really belong on the page. It is just another vague misleading statistic you’re throwing out to make people feel good about your little project. Regarding the maintenance costs of solar vs. asphalt, it, again, doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that you’re orders of magnitude off-target.
Solar Roadways: “False Claim: we can’t afford to heat roads”
Me: Again, orders of magnitude here. You’re talking about generating the world’s power through solar panels in roads, yet the amount of power it would take to heat-up and melt the ice of the roads is probably more in line with something that would require dedicated nuclear reactors to achieve. Put nuclear fuel cells in the roads and then maybe you’ll have something viable. If you really think that this will work, show us a demo of you melting ice in -20 degrees Fahrenheit and then tell me to shut up.
Solar Roadways: “False Claim: Glass is softer than asphalt”
Me: Okay, well finally you’re getting around to saying something that isn’t totally false and misleading. Glass is certainly harder than asphalt. Anyone who knows anything will agree that asphalt is by-design a mushy sort of substance. But lets be clear that asphalt is deliberately soft, and it is used on the roads because of that simple fact. It is designed to expand and contract with the heat/cold. Asphalt needs to take a beating from heavy vehicles and sun damage. You have no data for how your panels will stand up to the abuse of the sun, whether the innards of these things will chronically fail due to overheating etc. Despite LED lights being considered “cool-running” lights, one of the biggest challenges with dealing with them is actually dealing with dissipation of heat. I’m not saying that you won’t have a solution for this… but I think you’re trying to oversell your position… like you’ve clearly already oversold this campaign. Regardless of whether or not your material and design is built to stand up to the abuses of mother nature, you have bigger problems and miscalculations in other areas. I’ll let you cautiously pass on this one for now… but we’ll be watching.
Solar Roadways: “False Claim: The shadow a single bird can take out an entire solar array – let alone a car!”
Me: You are correct, that older solar technology without microinverters had this issue… and I know this because my company is owned by the same company that invented the microinverter solar solution and I’ve met the engineers. But still… this isn’t to say that we really want our solar panels to be driven on. What’s the power output going to be during rush hour vs. afternoon?
Solar Roadways: “False Claim: You can’t see LEDs in direct sunlight”
Me: Well duh, this depends on the LEDs. You’re clearly rebutting an idiot, though, but then you’re rebutting the idiot with idiotic claims. Sure there are LEDs in Time’s Square and on billboards. But you’re failing to quote any power requirements for such devices… and even though LEDs are far more efficient than old-school incandescent lighting, we also have to keep in mind that Solar panels generate a hideously tiny amount of power when compared to fossil fuels/nuclear. So you choose to answer one idiot with an idiot response, but really you should be answering the question of whether or not you can actually create a solar panel, with LEDs that generates enough electricity to be over-unity. I’m willing to bet that the power requirements for the circuit boards and LEDs will far exceed any electricity generated by the solar panels and the roadways will consume more power than they generate. Still I guess you could make the claim that you can put a solar panel there anyway to reduce the power requirements of the roads themselves… kinda like hybrid cars reduce gasoline requirements… but then we’re back to the initial question… which is…
Why? WHY do the panels belong in the roads and not somewhere else where they’ll be less prone to maintenance issues?
Putting solar panels in the roads is, simply, a stupid place for solar panels…..