By Robert Corbray, Guest Columnist
As humanity moves into more advanced technology, talk of solar roads—also known as “smart roads”—has been cropping up throughout the globe. If the concept evolves into reality, roads paved with solar panels could eventually outnumber standard paved highways and streets. Who knows when that will be? For now it’s undeniable that the notion of solar roads is becoming more and more popular, and this is certain to change the future in several ways. Not only could they potentially provide millions of new jobs, solar roads could drastically improve driving safety and safety in general, as well as positively affect the environment.
With solar roadways, the goal is to ultimately replace all sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, streets, outside recreational surfaces and any other outside surface you can imagine that is currently made out of concrete or similar materials. Now, you can imagine how many jobs this would create. To begin with, you would need to cover all of these roadways with solar panels, which in and of itself would take thousands upon thousands—or potentially millions, depending on how widespread these reconstruction projects are—of construction workers to do. Not only that, but all of the engineers and technicians needed to create the solar units to begin with would number in the thousands, not to mention all of the administrative staff members required to orchestrate the implementation of these innovative roadways. Needless to say, a project like this would create a massive employment boom.
As an extra benefit, solar roadways could significantly enhance highway safety. By heating the panels above freezing, icy and snowy roads would no longer be a safety hazard. By incorporating advanced LED lights and pressure sensors, the solar roadways could be programmed to alert drivers to obstructions like fallen tree branches or even crossing animals. Finally, the panels would be designed to conceal utility lines. With no power stretched around everywhere, there would no longer be the dangers of fallen cords electrocuting anyone or crushing anything. Not to mention that traffic schools would improve, as well. Since solar panels use LED light functionality, this could be used for virtual practice tests and make hands-on test-driving less dangerous.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, solar roadways are specifically designed to be environmentally friendly. The solar units that have already been made were constructed with the highest amount of recycled content possible, minimizing extra material production which could waste energy and put out even more pollutants and greenhouse gases. Secondly, unlike fossil fuels and other forms of dirty energy that are finite, solar panels get their energy from the sun. Because of this, the amount of energy is limitless, and obtaining it doesn’t cause destruction or pollution.
Furthermore, the runoff from melted snow and water caused by the panels would be channeled directly into purifying systems, minimizing the pollution that goes into soil and bodies of water. Finally, solar energy doesn’t release dangerous greenhouse gases which are the main cause of global warming; estimates say that solar panels for energy production, instead of fossil fuels, could decrease carbon and methane emissions by almost 75 percent.