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Monday, December 20, 2010

Road Reformation

The next big revolution in industry will be the "green" revolution.

We're running out of non-sustainable energy sources so we will HAVE to make the renewable sources work for us.

The sun is the biggest source of energy we can possibly tap into.

One of the problems with harnessing the sun is the lack of efficiency in converting the EM radiation it sends our way into electricity. HUGE leaps and bounds are being made in that area.

The other is surface area. Where can we put panels that will absorbs the sun without further destroying out oxygen factories (e.g. plants)?
One answer is the roads.

I'm not the first person to think of this:

Another answer is our houses.
I'm also not the first person to think of this: (a quick google search for "photovoltaic paint") and that's a different topic to the idea of reforming the roads.....

I often wonder what the total cost of roadways are. The cost of the "game fences" that keep animals off the roads; the cost of collisions with animals and the resulting cleanup. The cost of accidents from inclement weather. The cost of dropping telephone poles in the ground to run lines along the roads, the cost of guardrails, etc. The total cost of roads is MUCH more than the actual cost of installing them. In IT we call this "total cost of ownership" or "TCO" but it applies to everything. What is the TCO of an interstate highway? Is leaving the traveling on the surface the most efficient way to accomplish the goals of having such a system?

I'm not a civil engineer who specializes in roads so I don't know for sure and never will. But I do think that the idea of creating underground conduits is a good one to explore the TCO of. If the TCOs of underground conduits are similar to that of highways I am certain a case could be made to use them instead of above ground highways.

Here's a REALLY rough drawing of what I envision:

I envision this being placed in such a way as to have the upper part of the oval enclosure being about 2 feet above the surface. We could then run solar panels down the entire length of the highway that are angled both ways for maximum collection. The solar energy collected would power the lights and ventilation system as well as dynamic signs AND reserve power would be pumped into the grid.

The benefits? No more collisions due to inclement weather or wildlife on the road.
The drawbacks? Collisions due to driver error would be harder to clean up and a power failure would make the road unusable. Combine this with automated cars and we would only need to worry about power failures, which would be VERY localized if the entire surface is a solar array and there are proper storage mechanisms (batteries) to power lighting, etc during the night.

Just a thought.

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