Western countries have been considering paving roads with solar panels for many years. The Chinese have already done it, installing panels on the downhill section of a freeway in Shandong Province.
The world’s first photovoltaic(PV) freeway, developed and paved with China’s completely independent intellectual property rights, was opened to traffic last year in Ji’nan City of Shandong Province. At present, translucent pavements have been laid and some vehicles have begun to test drive on the road. So what magic does this road have?
Solar panels are made of complex polymers like plastics and have a slightly higher surface friction than traditional roads. During the manufacturing process, the surface friction can be adjusted as needed to ensure a level of tire grip equal to that of asphalt pavement. While ensuring that the tire does not slip, it also has a high light transmittance, allowing sunlight to penetrate it. So the solar cells can convert solar energy into electrical energy and deliver it to the power grid in real time, just like a giant “Charge Pal”.
At present, electromagnetic induction coils are also reserved under the road. In the future, electric vehicles can be charged while running in this section of the road, and there is no need to worry about insufficient battery usage.
In addition, the reserved information port can also access various information collection devices in the future, and information such as vehicle information and congestion status will be aggregated into traffic big data.
The potential attraction of solar roads that use modified solar panels instead of an asphalt road is obvious. Power generation on highways and streets instead of fields and deserts covered with solar panels can save a lot of lands. In China, a country with a large population and rapidly growing energy demand, this advantage is particularly important.
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Because roads run through and around cities, electricity generated on the road can be used nearby. That means there is almost no transmission loss. And roads have to be repaved every few years with expensive cost. Installing durable solar panels may also reduce road maintenance costs.
Solar roads may also change the driving experience. Electric strips can melt the snow that falls on the road surface. Light-emitting diodes embedded in the surface of the panels can provide luminous signs to guide the drivers to the exit and remind them to pay attention to the road construction and other traffic hazards.
The renewable energy market is increasingly profitable and strategically important. Currently, China has produced three-quarters of the solar panels sold globally. The experiment on the freeway is the latest achievement of China in the renewable energy field. However, this project also faces many challenges, such as reducing installation and repairs costs and preventing theft of solar panels.