Clearing the Freakin' Air
There's a lot of false information about Solar Roadways flying around the internet these days and some of it is just SO freakin' wrong that we've created this page to set the record straight!
We've gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks due to our Indiegogo campaign. The worldwide support has been nothing short of wonderful and we thank everyone everywhere.
Most of the attention has been very positive, but as the campaign became more and more successful (and popular), the naysayers began coming out in force trying to grab some attention. They use non-scientific "facts", misquote and mislead, and sometimes flat out lie. They write unprofessional articles and create deceiving videos to lead people astray. We were told by the Indiegogo staff that this happens to every successful campaign, regardless of the invention.
Haters are going to hate. Nothing we can do about that. One unscrupulous individual even took our viral Solar Freakin' Roadways video (by volunteer Michael Naphan) without our permission, and has used it to create another video, in which he has embedded deliberately misleading information. He is even making money by placing advertising on it to make a profit! (We could do the same, but we chose not to do so). And there are other journalists who have written articles with really irresponsibly misleading information.
We realize that we are surrounded with so much support, and we've been blessed with so many well written articles about our project that many days we can't even find time to post them all. Most journalists are wonderful and seem to really want to understand and report accurately, and we've been doing interviews each day. We welcome questions and critiques and post articles with a variety of opinions. But we do not post the truly unscrupulous and unprofessional works, as we do not want to give more attention to them.
We do worry about people being fooled by their antics, and we've been wrestling with how to deal with it. After much deliberation, we'd decided to create this page to set the record straight. To that end, the content here is to counter some of the myths floating around about our project. Much of this is also covered on our FAQ page, but most of our critics don't seem to bother going there.
To our supporters and defenders, please use the link to this page when you come across these uninformed arguments:
False Claim: We picked a really stupid place to put solar panels
The people who write this are failing to grasp the whole point and vision of Solar Roadways. We didn't sit around thinking, "Where would be the most efficient and convenient place to slap some solar panels? Aha, got it - highways!"
The point is that our highway infrastructure is in an embarrassingly antiquated state and the U.S. is no longer able to keep going with our current system of asphalt roads. State DOTs no longer have the funds to do so. The maintenance of our current road system costs a fortune and leaves commuters stuck in traffic, where they lose time and ability to be productive. It's 2014, and although just about everything in our lives is now high tech, we are still driving on roads that have no intelligence, no energy to drive features for safety and convenience and no return on investment - using the same materials that we've used for over 100 years.
So the Federal Highway Administration contracted us to see if our concept, which we knew could help the environment tremendously as well, could work for their needs. They gave us the funding for prototypes and R & D. We were just in the concept phase before we had their help. But we caught their attention and they wanted to find out if our system could offer a viable alternative: a modular, intelligent roadway system, with cheaper, easier maintenance and a real return on investment. A paving system that could pay for itself.
The more we worked, the more features and applications we were able to add to the product: the ability to keep roads snow and ice free, and LED lighting for safety and traffic management. We realized that our project could provide the smart grid that was so sorely needed and the fact that it's decentralized would offer national security to each country. We added the concept of Cable Corridors to give cables a safe and secure place where utility workers would be able to easily access them and a section to store and treat stormwater to protect our waterways. We realized the Solar Roadways would aid the transition to electric vehicles and allow them to charge with sunshine instead of fossil fuels. We realized that once this infrastructure is in place, EV's could be charging while they drive on Solar Roadways.
We could continue to use our current (petroleum-based) asphalt road system and find another way to get the money to keep the same system going (higher taxes anyone?). Or we can choose a roadway system that can actually pay for itself over time by powering homes and businesses with clean energy, ending our dependence on fossil fuels, cleaning up the environment, and offering a host of additional features to make all of our lives better.
False Claim: Solar Roadways is going to cost $60 trillion dollars
Years ago, when we were working on our very first prototype, we estimated that if we could make our 12' x 12' panels for under $10K, then we could break even with asphalt. That was mere speculation and had no relevance to the cost of even our first prototype, let alone our second.
As the previous section explains, we are creating a roadway system with an ROI that can pay for itself. So yes, there will be an initial upfront cost, but as soon as the panels are installed, they will begin paying for themselves by generating clean renewable solar energy. Some homes and businesses will generate enough to go off grid.
We are still in R & D, and we haven't even calculated the cost for our prototype. And even if we had those numbers available now they would have no relevance to the cost of our actual final product.
When you are prototyping, you are buying parts in very low quantities, which is the least cost efficient way possible. When you go into production, you order your parts in the 10's of thousands, greatly reducing the costs. Thanks to our funding from Indiegogo, we are now going to hire a team of engineers this summer, who will help us make tweaks to the design, streamline production and get costs down. At that point, we'll be able to release cost information.
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.
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.
Between 2009 and 2011, the latest year with available data, states collectively spent $20.4 billion annually to build new roadways and add lanes to existing roads. America's state-owned road network grew by 8,822 lane-miles of road during that time, accounting for less than 1 percent of the total in 2011.
During that same time, states spent just $16.5 billion annually repairing and preserving the other 99 percent of the system, even while roads across the country were deteriorating. On a scale of good, fair or poor, 21 percent of America's roads were in poor condition in 2011. Just 37 percent of roads were in good condition that year-down from 41 percent in 2008.
These spending decisions come with serious implications for DOT finances and taxpayers. In 2008, states would have needed to spend more than $43 billion every year for 20 years to bring roads in poor condition into a state of good repair while also maintaining their existing systems. By 2011, that figure increased to $45.2 billion per year-nearly three times the amount states currently spend on repair."
From the American Society of Civil Engineers(ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card:
Report card grade for current American road: D
Forty-two percent of America's major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. While the conditions have improved in the near term, and Federal, state, and local capital investments increased to $91 billion annually, that level of investment is insufficient and still projected to result in a decline in conditions and performance in the long term. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance.
Doesn't it seem like investing in a road system that could pay for itself would save the taxpayers a lot of money?
False Claim: we can't afford to heat roads
from the Federal Highway Administration:
"Over 70 percent of the nations roads are located in snowy regions, which receive more than five inches (or 13 cm) average snowfall annually. Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions. Snow and ice reduce pavement friction and vehicle maneuverability, causing slower speeds, reduced roadway capacity, and increased crash risk. Average arterial speeds decline by 30 to 40 percent on snowy or slushy pavement. Freeway speeds are reduced by 3 to 13 percent in light snow and by 5 to 40 percent in heavy snow. Heavy snow and sleet can also reduce visibility. Lanes and roads are obstructed by snow accumulation, which reduces capacity and increases travel time delay.
Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement. Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually. Snow and ice increase road maintenance costs. Winter road maintenance accounts for roughly 20 percent of state DOT maintenance budgets. State and local agencies spend more than 2.3 billion dollars on snow and ice control operations annually. Each year, these road agencies also spend millions of dollars to repair infrastructure damage caused by snow and ice."
Does the current system of snow removal sound cheap to anyone? What would saving over 1300 lives and preventing over 115,000 injuries per year be worth? Not to mention medical bills, vehicle repair, lost wages, etc.
False Claim: Glass is softer than asphalt
Not even close.
This is called the mohs hardness scale, which is used to define hardness in materials science. It lists materials from the softest to the hardest, 10 being diamond:
A subset of common items:
As you can see, asphalt has a hardness of 1.3, copper has a hardness of 3, iron and nickel have a hardness of 4, and steel falls between 4 and 4.5. As you get closer to diamond, you finally come to glass, which has a hardness of 5.5-6.0.
So if anyone tries to tell you that glass is soft, just remind them that even simple window glass is harder than steel. By comparison, it's asphalt that is soft.
One more thing: When you temper glass, it becomes 4-5 times stronger than the non-tempered glass listed in mohs hardness scale (it doesn't make it harder - just stronger). Bulletproof and bomb (blast) resistant glass is made with tempered glass.
Solar Road Panels are also made of tempered glass.
False Claim: The shadow a single bird can take out an entire solar array - let alone a car!
It never ceases to amaze us that the people who make these kinds of statements live on the assumption that engineers never seem to have these simple thoughts on their own. Perhaps they expect us to see their brilliance and say, "Wow - you're right. Never mind." Fortunately, engineers are trained quite intensively to solve problems.
We use microinverters to prevent shading from taking out entire sections. Microinverters allow solar panels to act independently of one another. If you have rooftop solar with microinverters, then you can throw a blanket over one panel and none of the others are affected: they still have full output capability. That's why our prototype parking lot works even with vehicles parked on it.
False Claim: You can't see LEDs in direct sunlight
Oh boy. These people aren't paying much attention to their surroundings.
LEDs have been used outside in the direct sunlight for years. LEDs come in many varieties: you just have to pick the right ones. Low intensity LEDs designed for indoor use will not show well in direct sunlight. High intensity LEDs designed for outdoor use work just fine.
Most traffic signals today are made with LEDs. They use much less power, provide more visibility, and last much longer than the old incandescent bulbs.
And what about all of those digital (LED) billboards we see all over town?
How long has Times Square been lit up with LEDs?
It doesn't seem to matter how bright the sun is: you can still very easily see the billboards and traffic lights. As we've said on our FAQ page, we undersized (chose too low of an intensity) the LEDs in our prototype parking lot. That is very easily corrected by substituting with higher intensity LEDs during future prototyping/production. You can very easily see (the correct) LEDs in direct sunlight.
False Claim: We're attempting to use recycled colored glass to make new clear glass
Obviously, that would be silly and we're not making such a claim. This example showcases the desperation of this particular naysayer, who was really grasping at straws to try to convince their audience. Always environmentally conscious, we used the recycled glass as aggregate (ten percent) in our base layer. At the end of a panel's lifetime, its glass (if it cannot be reused) can be recycled in this manner.
Scott & Julie at a glass recycling center in Montana
The top layer of glass has to remain clear for maximum transmissivity.
Some of the statements we found while working on this page are just so silly that we are just going to have to quote them for some comic relief:
One detractor tried to illustrate how dangerous Solar Roadways will be by... wait for it... showing footage of a car losing control and going into a spin on a wet asphalt road.
"To be fair to the Brusaws, they're not exactly scammers - Scott is an electrical engineer, and most of the science checks out - but so far, despite $850,000 in grants from the Department of Transport, the couple have only built a small prototype parking lot." ~ Sebastian Anthony
Which was exactly what the FHWA contracted us to do!
"In short, they are a (bad) solution in search of a problem. Even if they could do everything they purport to do, there is no need for them." ~ Shea Gunther
"Because a project like this would never, ever get funded. Ever. Or, at least not until the technology is so advanced that a monkey could see the cost benefits to putting it in, and that's probably not a serious possibility at any point before 2050." ~ Joel Anderson
"Solar Roadways passes $1.4 million in crowdfunding: Just short of the $56 trillion required, but not bad for a crazy idea" ~ Sebastian Anthony
Aside from the inaccuracy, that's like asking Steve Jobs in 1984 how he was going to afford to give everyone an Apple computer!
"Thunderfoot" compares our Solar Road Panels to a thorium car and a transorbital pogo-stick and says, "If you could make one, it would be super cool."
We actually made 108 of them. And he's right: they're super cool!
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.
If we were not strong in spirit, we might let such people discourage us and give up. But this is a solemn commitment for us, a refection of our values and beliefs. We believe it's crucial to be good stewards of the earth and we are continually lifted up by the thousands and thousands of our fellow humans who take their time to reach out and let us know that they believe the path we are on is the one they choose too.
Please bring to our attention any other uninformed arguments that you see being used repeatedly and we'll debunk them here and on our FAQ page. Thank you again for your support!
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