Environment News

Green Company’s “Solar Road” Fails Within a Week.

Another solar energy startup funded by taxpayers has ended up being a “total and epic failure.”

The Idaho based Solar Roadways received over $2 million in state and federal funds to install a prototype of a road paved with solar panels. As it turns out, 75% of the panels installed were broken within one week.

The Daily Caller reports the road couldn’t be driven on, several panels failed due to rain, and the “solar road” itself was unable to generate any electricity.

“Green energy” projects like Solar Roadways appear to go hand-in-hand with corporate cronyism these days. Other projects like Desert Sunlight solar farm relied on billions of dollars and subsidies and energy purchasing mandates to stay afloat, even though they are owned by large corporations like General Electric.

For more on where companies stand on environmental issues, be sure to check out our database here.

  • Dan

    This is poor journalism. I live in Sandpoint Idaho and am very aware of what transpired:

    “75% of the panels installed were broken within one week.” – INCORRECT. The process oven that seals the tiles malfunctioned during the first production run. This caused electrical issues between the circuit boards that prevented that batch of tiles from operating properly. However, the scheduled unveiling was fast approaching. So as not to disappoint the crowd, a decision was made to install several of the working tiles in the center of the exhibit, then border them with the nonworking tiles. The plan is to swap them out with a good production run. This was a manufacturing issue–not a design issue. It had nothing to do with the long-term performance of the tiles.

    “the road couldn’t be driven on” – INCORRECT. These were installed on a SIDEWALK, not a road. Until the DOT testing is complete, (currently in process) they cannot install these units on a road.

    “several panels failed due to rain, and the “solar road” itself was unable to generate any electricity.” – INCORRECT. Nothing failed or broke after the tiles were installed. The ones that were functional at time of install are continuing to operate.

    • Clint818181

      The company’s name is Solar Roadways. And they failed epically despite your excuses.


      • Dan

        I appreciate your response, Clint. Stating facts to correct errant reporting is not excuses. It’s accuracy. As for failing, you should know that their business plan estimates 2017 commercial viability–this was just an early rollout. I don’t know how they are tracking to plan, but I do know the current focus is on productionization and DOT certification.

        Here is what actually happened with the unveiling: http://solarroadways.com/Blog/Show?b=4

        I’m not yet convinced this is to make it to highways, but I do like the idea of it for sidewalks and parking lots. Seattle still has glass sidewalks from its earliest days and they’ve held up extremely well. Baking electronics into them isn’t a stretch.

        For the record, I am not affiliated with Solar Roadways in any way.

        • Clint818181

          That explanation is well and good but doesn’t explain how solar/wind energy can surpass the energy production of oil.
          As great as solar or wind power is alleged to be only oil meets the cheapest most energy efficient resource available.

          • Dan

            Wind generation bothers me, for sure. The amount of new real-estate consumed in its generation and the cost of the equipment make it a non-starter. I’m a bit more hopeful looking at some of the new tech coming out for solar.

            I see surface energy capture as a great opportunity, but agree with you that it will likely be an adjunct to oil and coal for the foreseeable future. That said, if the cost of solar capture can be reduced (via some of the advances in capture efficiency, battery storage, etc.) sidewalks and high rise building surfaces could be prime candidates for retrofit. Innovations like transparent solar panels as windows are clever, but still cost-prohibitive.

            So, in the end, productionization is key. If the true (unsubsidized) cost of manufacture and installation of solar can be brought down sufficiently to commoditize it, I think it has great chance for broad adoption. That’s the challenge Solar Roadways faces. They have proven in both lab and small scale testing that what they are doing is viable, technologically. Now they must prove it is cost effective at scale.

            And the first step is simply ensuring their ovens are working before they cook the next batch of panels!

        • foobeca

          Why the hell would you put solar panels in a parking lot? You do know that if a car is parked over a solar panel, it doesn’t generate any electricity, RIGHT?

          Seattle doesn’t have glass sidewalks. It has concrete sidewalks with prisms embedded in them to light up the basement below. Over 500 have been broken and filled with cement. Why go through the expense and hassle of making a solar sidewalk when you could buy a lot more solar panels and generate a lot more electricity for the same money and put them on a roof?

          • Dan

            Had you read my later comments, you would have seen that I indicated that surface energy capture should include buildings. There have been some great strides made in this regard, including “intelligent glass”. I don’t share your concern for use of glass in a sidewalk, however. I lived in Seattle for 11 years and am aware the sidewalks are not entirely glass, but that glass has been in place since about the late 1800’s, so losing 500 over the course of 110 years might not be considered a bad failure rate. Given today’s improved formulations in tempered glass, one can expect the mean time between failure to increase significantly.

            I’ll stand by my previous comment that productionization will be the key and I see no problem with “cost-effective” adjunct sources of energy. ROI and TCO must win the day, after the subsidies are gone.