Thursday, April 9, 2015

Solar Roadways - Will they work?

Image Collage by Solar Roadways – Will they Work?
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“It seems really terrible to point this out, given the visionary nature of this project, but there are times when a wet blanket may be necessary and, much as I hate to say it, I’m here to play that role. No matter how much you love the idea of solar roadways, I really don’t think it’s a bright idea to donate any money to these seemingly-wonderful people.”
~ Joel Anderson, Staff Writer
There’s a battle underway in the online court of public opinion. It’s a battle being waged on blogs and comment threads; Facebook posts and Twitter Feeds; but nowhere does the debate over Solar Roadways seem to be more graphic and emotional than on YouTube.

Let’s begin with what is no-doubt the most enthusiastic and emphatic video in favour of this IndieGoGo crowd-funded venture:

Video: Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!

It should be noted that in addition to the over USD 2.23 Million raised thus far on IndieGoGo, the Scott Brusaw and his wife also received $850,000 in grants from the Federal Highway Administration to build a small prototype parking lot.

According to their website, Solar Roadways admits they are still in the R&D phase of the project. At this time, there seems to be no indication of what real-world costs might be, nor what actual power generation solar powered roads might yield.

The very notion of replacing a well-worn (pardon the expression) low-tech solution like asphalt and/or concrete with a high-tech multi-layered surface strikes many as dubious at best. And there is no shortage of individuals who have gone to some length to make their argument against the viability of the Brusaw’s high-tech vision for clean energy and safer, low-maintenance roads.

Here’s just one such video:

Video: Solar Roadways: Busted!

In response to the “haters, naysayers and doubters” the Brusaw’s offer a webpage on their site in which they try to debunk the debunkers (the call it “cleaning the air”). You can browse their responses point-by-point for yourself; but we do share the following from said page:
“We wonder about people who reflexively dismiss our concept without trying to understand it, or go on public forums to attack us. It's helps us to remember that there have always been people against change. For some it's just too scary. They want to just keep things the same. Perhaps they are the descendants of those who argued that the earth was flat, that we didn't need cars because horses worked just fine, told the Wright Brothers they were out of their minds, or insisted that we'd never reach the moon. Or perhaps they are the voices of larger entities who are now feeling threatened by the paradigm shift that is Solar Roadways.”
Now, here at GenesisEcoFund, we are no stranger to the reactionary, automatic naysaying mentality of those who dogmatically follow established paradigms. In many ways, we can relate to the Brusaw’s frustration –and whimsy—encountering those who seem hell-bent on tearing down their idea without giving it any honest consideration. 

It must also be said, however, that not all criticisms we came across researching the topic of solar roadways were from the voices of haters and naysayers per say. 

Joel Anderson’s thoughtfully written article on entitled Why the Solar Roadways Project on Indiegogo is Actually Really Silly lays out a number of well-rounded arguments from the point of view of the established solar industry.

Yes, despite what anyone may or may not think about the “coolness” and/or plausibility of having solar-power-generating roads, there is an army of well-financed, highly motivated, extremely intelligent individuals and companies racing against the clock in search of better, cheaper, more efficient solar solutions for the “virtually endless supply of places you could install solar panels that DON’T have cars driving over them.”

Anderson’s “nail in the coffin” seems to be this statement:
“…the Brusaws have been unable to secure any piece of the more-than $2 billion a year spent on solar research and development around the world (more than $1 billion a year in the United States). Probably because there’s too many more-practical, more-promising investments to be made to seriously consider this pipe dream.” 
Well, with our experience of bureaucrats and government programs, we’re not surprised if that be the case, regardless of how feasible the concept may or may not be. That’s more a question of the sophistication of the applicants and their contacts or ability to contract a professional lobbyist (or someone who specializes in applying for government grants and other funding programs).

Still, the fact remains that this idea, for better or for worse, seems to touch a chord in people: some for the good, others for the bad.

Strangely, when it comes to ecosystems, we see very little in the nature of such contradiction. Very few people we have ever encountered seem to think bringing ecosystems back into our lives in a meaningful way is anything less than a brilliant prospect.

Perhaps it’s because everyone, deep down, feels an instinctive longing to reconnect with that part of themselves which aligns with harmony and mutual symbiosis—with each other; with the planet. Perhaps it’s as simple as a deep-felt longing to recover what was lost when industrialization and technology began wiping nature from our minds, lives and the surface of the planet.

In any case, what our experience tells us is this: no matter what kind of road we take moving forward—solar powered or otherwise—we would all do well to listen to our intuition and deepest instincts of connection if we hope to encounter innovations like Solar Roadways and simply know, intuitively and instinctually, if they are “good ideas” or not. 

Ecosystems can help us align with that deeper, higher centre of ourselves.

For more YouTube videos for and against Solar Roadways, click the image below:

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