Initial reports for solar panels embedded in road. Well, actually, a walkway. Output worth around a nickel per day.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A prototype of solar panels installed in roads is being tested. Results are not particularly promising. (Similar story could be told of two projects in Europe, but will have to cover that another day.)

10/18/16 – Daily Caller News Foundation – Solar Road is “Total and Epic” Failure, 83% Of Its Panels Break in a Week – The test project is in Idaho. The concept is that 30 panels installed in a street (actually a walkway so the panels are not actually getting the wear of being in a road) will provide enough power to run a water fountain and the lights in a restroom.

Eighteen panels were DOA. Another five panels failed after a rain shower. Not a hail storm. Not an unseasonal torrential rain. Not a blizzard, as happens often in northern locations. Like Idaho.

A shower.

Article says only 5 of the 30 panels were working at the time.

At the time of the article, funds raised include $500K from the state for installation, $750K from DoT for initial research, and $2.2M from crowdfunding.

That is $3.45M of funding. For a project with 5 of 30 panels working. Which if everything was working would only power a water fountain and a few bathroom lights. Even if all the panels were working.

4/3/17 – Daily Caller News Foundation – Idaho’s $4.3 Million Solar Road Generates Enough Power to Run ONE Microwave – A mere five months after installation, the project started disclosing the produced electricity on 3/22/17.

The output can be measured in terms of whether the multi-million dollar project is producing enough electricity to power an average microwave for one day, which the article says is about 1 kWh. In the first 14 days of operation, the facility could in fact power an average microwave on 3 days. Yes, 3.

The cost of this project is now up to $4.3 million. It has taken 6.5 years to get to the point of actually producing a flicker of electricity.

You can see the output of the facility here.

Here is the publicly disclosed daily output:

3/22/2017                                0.75
3/23/2017                                0.55
3/24/2017                                0.34
3/25/2017                                0.67
3/26/2017                                0.62
3/27/2017                                0.63
3/28/2017                                0.41
3/29/2017                                0.26
3/30/2017                                0.86
3/31/2017                                1.06
4/1/2017                                0.44
4/2/2017                                0.86
4/3/2017                                1.01
4/4/2017                                1.10
4/5/2017                                0.72
4/6/2017                                0.32
4/7/2017                                0.54
total                               11.14
average daily output                                0.66
days in month                                   30
monthly output kWh                                19.7
days in year                                 365
year output kWh                               239.2


It averaged 0.66 kWh per day.

Less than a kilowatt hour a day.

For a 30 day month, that would be 19.7 kWh. Annualized, that would be 239 kWh.

Um, last month I used 552 kWh in my home. I would need about 28 of these installations to power my home. That assumes the hourly output matched my usage, I slashed consumption by 60% on an overcast day, and could store any extra juice for a few days.

(I won’t even explore the idea that the first article said there are 30 panels, the panels cover 150 square feet, which means those panels are about 5 square feet each, that the standard solar panel provides about 270 watts faceplate capacity, or that the theoretical output would be around 8,100 watts, or 32 kWh at four hours of full direct sun. I won’t go into that.)

Let’s look at that output from another direction.

Let’s start with output of 0.66 kWh per day. On my last bill, the charge for generation in tier 2 was 7.48 cents a kilowatt hour.

  •    $0.0748/kWh
  • x 0.66 kWh/day
  • = $0.049 a day.

The project produces energy worth a nickel a day on average.

Five cents a day.

From funding of $4,300,000.

If you are as interested in the obvious next question as I am, I’ll do the math for your:  that output with that funding gives a breakeven of 240,424 years ($4.3M / $.049 / 365 = 240,424).

A mere 2,400 centuries before breakeven.

This is a real story, not an April Fool’s Day joke.

To paraphrase a favorite expression of Million Dollar Way, I am not bright enough to make up a story like this. I’m nowhere near funny or clever enough.

Other discussions

Behind the Black mentioned this story: Solar panel project costing millions produces enough energy to run one microwave.

A commenter at one of the Daily Caller posts asked if Idaho allows studded tires. How about snow chains? Do they have snowplows clearing the road after a storm? What do each of those do to the life expectancy of solar panels? Reason for the question is the concept is to put solar panels in roads instead of walkways.

Related questions that come to mind: Does the dirt, oil, mud, and snow melt that falls off cars affect the performance of road solar? How about the salt used in most cold regions? How many more accidents are expected because of poor traction on solar panels in rain, snow, or ice?

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