No Solar Roadways Anytime Soon

A couple of the things I'm most allergic to are bad science and its partner in crime, a lack of common sense. The predicaments we face are factual and plain to see, and yet human beliefs and (in many cases) ignorance often sabotage making progress towards remedying those issues.

Recently, the idea of creating 'solar roadways' swept across the social media universe:

//www.youtube.com/embed/qlTA3rnpgzU

A lot of emails are hitting my inbox as people want to know what I think of this marvelous idea.

First, I'm quite sympathetic to the desire to find ways to turn our many liabilities into some sort of good.  At first blush, the idea of tearing up our roads and covering them with durable solar panels sounds really attractive.

Understandably, a lot of people have been captivated by a slick promo video that went out across the Internet. Funds well in excess of the $1,000,000 goal have been rapidly raised from over 43,000 individuals in support:

(Source - Indigogo site)

Many 'news' sites leaped at this remarkably promising story, with EliteDaily saying, " All [the inventors] need is a little cash and we can kiss economic woes, pollution and a whole lot of car accidents goodbye forever."

Sounds great, right?  A little cash and we can kiss our economic woes, pollution and most car accidents goodbye!

But, sadly, the concept as pitched is simply awful. Why?

Let me count the ways.

To begin, solar panels are barely economic when set up perfectly. That involves orienting them properly to the south (for maximum sun exposure) and tilting them just so.

Lying flat on the ground, as they would in a roadway, will be much less efficient. So, strike one.

Next, solar panels perform exceptionally poorly when they're blocked in any way (by leaves, shadows, etc) and their performance degrades when covered with dirt, grime, or snow.  

If you've ever driven on a road,  you know that all sorts of occlusions  -- dirt, salt, grime, old mattresses lost from the roofs of inept self-movers -- are all part of the game. So if we did happen to install a solar roadway. we'd also be signing up for an extensive and permanent program of cleaning the roads, which is not a cost we currently bear. So, strike two.

Quite humorously, at the indigogo site where the hopeful inventors have taken the time to Photoshop their proposed product into a parade of exciting use cases,  one of their 'visions' includes an installation at perhaps the crummiest of solar sites they could pick, seeing as how it's in the woods and all:

Still, I give this Photoshop high marks for marketing appeal, because the idea of teaching your kid to ride their bike on a solar bike path is pretty catchy. 

But on the flipside, we have to wonder about the technical chops of the people involved who thought this was a reasonable way to demonstrate how their proposed product should be installed. Suffice it to say that if a solar company showed up at my house with this as an example of their work, I wouldn't hire them. More likely, I'd immediately check to see if their stock was publicly traded and short it if it was.

Next, their proposed product offering is a modular design, meaning the 'panels' come in little hexagon shapes which, in turn, means each of the panels is separate from those adjoining it. Water will get down between the border cracks, creating all sorts of roadbed erosion and ice-sponsored mischief, and that's just a recipe for disaster in most temperate climates where water falls regularly from the sky. For example, roadways here in New England where I live are constantly having to be patched and repaired due to water/ice dynamics, and that's a "seamless" surface compared to these panels.

Furthermore, such a modular design is flawed is because of poor load distribution.

What I mean by that is: imagine a very heavy truck tire contacting the front of one of these hexagons, then the middle, then the far side.  As it does so, it will press down the front of the hexagon and then the back. If there's even the slightest up and down motion to this process, over time a set of compaction grooves will set up and these panels will rattle about in their little convex placements. This will create a rough ride, and eventually end up tearing apart whatever electrical connections link them together.

So, for the failure to understand roadway design basics: Strike three.

One final reservation (out of many that remain) is that of cost. Thick tempered glass is not cheap to produce, but asphalt is. I don't know what these little hexagons will cost, but I am certain that on a per watt basis they will cost more than ordinary solar panels because of the additional design features required for them to support massive loads.

I also know that very thick glass is not as good as thinner glass for solar transmission, so the panels will generate less power per unit of area. Here we simply will note that whatever electricity is generated by a solar roadway will be less than a traditional solar panel installation.

Which simply means the cost per generated watt will be higher. My guess is a lot higher, possibly an order of magnitude.

Compared to asphalt, which is very cheap to produce and is the most intensively-recycled material on the planet (with a 99% recycle rate as old roadbeds are torn up, re-melted and reapplied), I can only imagine that these solar roadway panels will be vastly more expensive than asphalt.

And while that alone isn't a good reason to spike the project, given all the other problems noted above, it certainly doesn't help.

Conclusion

I think the vigor and intensity with which people donated to this project speaks mainly to the desire to find a quick fix to our self-destructive ways. Turning our roadways into a magical paths that will end our economic woes, eliminate pollution, and reduce accidents touches right down upon that particular nerve.

But the idea simply does not pass the common sense test.

Why would we spend more on a per watt basis to get less out of a roadway when we could simply put known and proven technology up on all the vacant rooftops?

If people aren't inspired by the current returns of solar on rooftops or in open fields, they are going to positively hate the returns from the solar roadways idea.  Poor orientation, shading, dirt, water and ice, wear and tear, and design considerations being driven by vehicle weight vs. maximizing solar gain are all going to erode this idea's final delivery compared to a traditional dedicated installation.

Instead of getting excited about a solar roadway, it's time to get serious about reducing our use of energy and putting what funds we have at our disposal into the myriad proven technologies that already exist and which can be implemented in known ways with calculable benefits.

Nowhere in this pitch for solar roadways that so many people have responded to is any science, economics or engineering for the viewer evaluate.  There is no guesstimate of cost, no evaluation of output per unit of area, no comparison to existing solar substitutes, and no tests of dirt/grime or other occlusions showing the effect on output.

In other words, nothing that any reasonable person might use to assess whether this is a worthwhile idea or not. 

From a marketing standpoint, though, I think they did fantastically. Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!!!

~ Chris Martenson

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/no-solar-roadways-anytime-soon/

I'm a little surprised this idea is getting airtime on PP.  It's so ridiculous that it would be funny if there weren't so many people taking it seriously.  Reminds me of Idiocracy.
My favorite picture is the one of a parking covered in this stuff that is then full of cars casting shade on fully half of the panels.  Brilliant!

It does kind of get my wheels spinning though.  If people are dumb enough to invest in something like this, maybe there is still time to get rich as the economy whines and moans under it's own weight.  All I need is the next bad idea and a compelling kickstarter video…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNhHvZYw8NE

Chris,
      As a solar contractor, I agree completely that the idea of solar roadways is a very long way off and this company is going to take advantage of a lot of ignorant investors.  However, I do not agree with your comment:

To begin, solar panels are barely economic when set up perfectly. That involves orienting them properly to the south (for maximum sun exposure) and tilting them just so

     In many US States this is true.  However, there are about a dozen or so States where solar is growing rapidly as the economics are very attractive.  We are currently installing systems on homes that result in power at around $.10/kWhr when averaged over 20 yrs (well within life of the system).  In Northern CA, the lowest rate for power is $.12/kWhr and it goes up to over $.34/kWhr.  That's todays prices.  In 20 years that will be a very different story.  So to be able to lock in power at $.10/kWhr is incredibly economic in my view.

     Shade and orientation are very important factors to maximize economics.  Fortunately, there are a lot of roof tops out there with good solar access.  We will avoid roads and walkways covered by trees and grime!

Kman

 

Well, good points all. I had thought about the snow, road weight and the replacement problems, the proponents of this project did address those.  Whether they're correct or not remains to be seen. Didn't really think about dirt and leaves, mostly those just get blown away or rained off on our current roads now anyway.  The cost factors (of the glass esp) and efficiency are a bit of a concern. The nanotech thin film materials being developed may eventually resolve some of that, they're cheap and collect sunlight from all directions.  They aren't as efficient as the silicon based, but they are far cheaper to produce  and sheer volume alone sucking in all that sunlight outweighs the lower efficiency lost. My biggest concern is that the glass is too slick to hold a tire when braking, and still adds a lot of cost to the project. Not sure how they would resolve that one.  Perhaps some other type of transparent surface can (and likely will be) developed.
Still, they are raising this money to explore the idea, not to implement it in a widespread manner just yet. It's crowd sourcing, not tax dollars, so it's not as though it's coming out of anyone's pocket by coercement.  Maybe the people donating the money are being naive, but I can't see how it will hurt to give it a try. Dumber ideas have been funded before, sometimes yielding solutions to unrelated problems. Many good solutions and products have been discovered that can be useful and profitable by studying something that might seem arcane, or even stupid, even if it's something that wasn't actually the aim of the study. You just don't know until you try.  It's better than sitting on our collective arses doing the same things over and over again that aren't working and hoping it'll get better or waiting for something better to come along.

A good solar roadways debunking video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H901KdXgHs4

I guess a moose is much more dramatic than a deer. I've seen a couple of moose in my lifetime. I've seen a gazillion deer, including the one I hit last fall. Thanks for the info. I'm glad you gave it some coverage so we can pass it along. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had people send them the videos. I was pretty skeptical as it seems to have recently burst onto the media scene, but I'm also open to the question of "why not?"
Thank you

Chris, good post. Here are links to discussions using dollar estimates, etc.:
Reddit DredMorbius: "Solar Roadways": either a scam or gross incompetence
http://www.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/26on7y/solar_roadways_either_a_scam_or_gross_incompetence/

Should we cover all our roads with solar panels?
"Back in 2010, the company assumed that a 12' by 12' glass panel would cost around $10,000. At this rate, covering all of our roads would cost $56 trillion — nearly 20 times the annual federal budget. Even on a smaller scale, these panels are at least 50 percent more expensive than regular roads, and possibly more."
http://www.vox.com/2014/5/14/5717036/should-we-cover-all-our-roads-with-solar-panels

Reddit Oppression: Professional Civil Engineer is banned from /r/renewableenergy and comments removed - all because he did not believe in solar roadways
"I'm a Civil Engineer by profession. I know how much roads cost, and how much these will cost (an immense amount), and how much energy they will create (very little, given that they will be heavily obscured by crap on and around the road). I also know that they will not make a satisfactory road material since they will not be strong enough and without high enough friction. Wear/tear on roadways will destroy these things as well. Several inches of the top of roads is worn away due to wear/tear alone. These are not effective in any way. The amount of energy you gain in no way makes up for the additional costs and hurdles that face these things, nor will they ever be. Duel purpose designs such as these rarely work. Putting solar cells on tops of roofs = great. Replacing windows with transparent solar cells = great. Putting solar cells underneath your tires = foolish."
http://www.reddit.com/r/Oppression/comments/266yni/professional_civil_engineer_is_banned_from/

Reddit AskEngineers: Solar Roadways. Is this affordable at such a big level? I'd like to know what experienced engineers think about this idea
"They are not viable in any meaningful way. Solar energy relies on optic transmittance through the glass/plastic in order to be efficient. When you factor in thick-textured plastic (expensive in its own right, their plastic isn't thick enough either), the extra infrastructure required (storage, frequent cleaning from grime on the road, frequent transformers/storage, etc), and many other extra costs, they are simply not viable. You also cannot rotate them, which limits their viability further since they would only be meaningfully efficiency during the noon hours.
"This invention solves no problem and creates additional ones. There is so much open space already available to put solar cells. In addition, there are so many other more-viable options that aren't even close to meeting their full potential.
"These cells would be so ridiculously expensive that they would probably never be paid off in full."
"Plus, for cars to have any appreciable grip on the plastic surface, it'd have to be very rough, which would probably be even less efficient at letting the light through."
http://www.reddit.com/r/AskEngineers/comments/265ocs/solar_roadways_is_this_affordable_at_such_a_big/chnw908

Poet

 

 

I am attempting to explain my logic out there in Facebook land to people who are taken with the idea.
For some reason, some of those efforts evoke this video (one of my favorites):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

At the end of the FB conversations, I sometimes feel like saying, solar roadways.  Great idea.  Let's do that.

The point is, there are a hundred proven, cost effective, things we can do today where we know the risks and the benefits.  Why not start there?

Speaking of which, Kman said:

However, there are about a dozen or so States where solar is growing rapidly as the economics are very attractive.  We are currently installing systems on homes that result in power at around $.10/kWhr when averaged over 20 yrs (well within life of the system). 
I am wondering, is that $0.10/kwhr before or after tax breaks and subsidies?

If it's after breaks and subsidies, that means it's competitive in a dozen states with financial assistance.  

More broadly, my views on stating solar PV set-ups are barely economic stems from the study by Prieto and Hall which concluded that the EROEI for solar PV in Spain was only 2.45

This is the first time an estimate of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI) of solar Photovoltaics (PV) has been based on real data from the sunniest European country, with accurate measures of generated energy from over 50,000 installations using several years of real-life data from optimized, efficient, multi-megawatt and well-oriented facilities. These large installations are far less expensive and more efficient than rooftop solar-PV.

Previous life cycle and energy payback time analyses used models — not years of data from real physical systems — that left out dozens of energy inputs, leading to overestimates of energy such as payback time of 1-2 years (Fthenakis), EROI 8.3 (Bankier), and EROI of 5.9 to 11.8 (Raugei et al).

Prieto and Hall added dozens of energy inputs missing from past solar PV analyses. Perhaps previous studies missed these inputs because their authors weren’t overseeing several large photovoltaic projects and signing every purchase order like author Pedro Prieto. Charles A. S. Hall is one of the foremost experts in the world on the calculation of EROI. Together they’re a formidable team with data, methodology, and expertise that will be hard to refute.

Prieto and Hall conclude that the EROI of solar photovoltaic is only 2.45, very low despite Spain’s ideal sunny climate. Germany’s EROI is probably 20 to 33% less (1.6 to 2), due to less sunlight and efficient rooftop installations.

(Source

One starting point for analyzing what the returns are going to be from an energy source is the EROI.  At 2.45 the solar installations in Spain say that these installations cannot be used to run the center mass of our human energy needs.  They can play a role, but perhaps not the central role as our societies across the globe are fashioned on EROI's of well over 10.

Knowing that optimized solar PV installations are already in the 2-3 EROI zone, I can only conclude that the solar roadways idea as presented is much worse off and may even be negative.  It might make economic sense especially if we subsidize it, but it probably won't pass the EROI energy test.

All of that said, I will be personally installing a 7kw PV system this year on my property.  It pencils out to about breakeven in 12 years given all the current incentives and, heck, who knows how much electricity will cost in the future?  If it goes up (as I am pretty certain it will) then the economics will only turn more strongly in favor of the system.

So this seems like as good a use for my money right now as any other I can think of.

Chris,     The $.10/kWhr value I used is based on the 30% federal tax credit.  However, in CA, we used to also get rebates as high as $2.50/WAC.  Today those rebates are gone.  However, solar system costs have dropped significantly in that time, so much so that one buying solar today can get a better financial return than if they had 3 years ago with the full rebate.  The tax credit is planned to drop from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016.  Expectations are that solar costs will drop by about the much by then as well.  So the net cost to Joe homeowner will be similar to todays cost with incentives.
     I should also mention that the $.10/kWhr was based on a $4/WDC system over 20 yr lifespan.  Many systems are already in the low to mid $3/WDC range and good systems should last 25 to 30 years plus.  So the reality is that todays costs without the 30% tax credit can be better than $.10/kWhr.
    In PG&E territory (Northern CA), about 45% of power production comes from Natural Gas.  In addition, the infrastructure (gas and electric) is old.  So when natural gas prices return to norms (and go up from there) and all the needed infrastructure investments are considered, prices have the potential to rise significantly from here as for some odd reason PG&E likes to past these costs onto the consumer.  So $.10/kWhr will be an incredible bargain.
   Using conservative projections, we typically see payback for solar PV in 5-7 years.  Its often less than 5 years for small to mid sized commercial systems.  This is all local solar (roof top), not the solar farms.
   Congrats on finally taking the plunge to go solar (PV).  I think you will be very happy with your system quietly producing away for years to come.
Kman

For me that was painful to watch.  Versions of this video happen in engineering all the time.  Sigh.My fav: this dilbert cartoon:
http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1994-02-20/
Regarding EROEI in Spain - with a fast-moving tech like PV, I'd be concerned that the measurements of EROEI is anchored to particular deployments made with tech from a specific point in time.  A 2005 system might have a 2-3 rating, but a 2015 system?  Perhaps it might be 5-6?  Still not a home run, but if you draw the curve, we know how those exponential charts work, and hopefully this time they're working in our favor.
That said, solar roadways seem like a dreadful idea.  Rooftops seem perfectly fine, and are already co-located with the actual power consumer, so there is no transmission loss.  Why do we want to fix something that doesn't seem to be broken?
Here's a solar power market analysis by a sell-side wall street analysis firm - worth reading:
http://reneweconomy.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Bernstein-solar.pdf

Great discussion Chris… we put in about 7.5 kW of solar photovoltaic three years ago and being an engineer I dutifully record the power generated and power used every month for tabulation (along with solar hot water numbers and water use in general). As to costs… here in New Zealand there are no subsidies so its all on the consumer to pay.  When we installed the system the power company was paying for produced power exactly what they charged.  Six months ago they revised the agreement to a complicated generation sliding scale that works out to paying about half of what they charge along with tiered daily connection fees that muddies the equations further.  So much for rational multi-decade economic analysis when the game is rigged.  I'm beyond the "payback period" number crunching as I know who's winning in the game. 
We've got a battery backup system now and a genset beyond that so I'm considering just pulling the plug completely from the grid.  I sleep better knowing we can survive just fine if the grid goes down and like you my bet is that power is only going to get more expensive.  I can't definitively analyze my ROI but I do know I'm much happier with those dollars on my roof than in my bank.
Chip

Energy stuff makes me long winded...

 

I am OK with someone exploring solar roadways (I would not do it, for the same reasons outlined above) .  Many really good ideas are found on trails explored by "bad" ideas.  If someone believes in something strong enough to give it a try, and can find resources to do so (without government coercion or mismanagement; which is the bane of our society) then go for it.  Just like exploring thorium reactors in a previous article, I want to see people looking into our colossal energy problem.   

 

I agree with many that conservation of energy/water/sewage/food is high priority.  Making lots of energy to maintain our standard of living is not going to pan out well in the future.  When I think conservation of these things I think Earthships— An individualistic, and self-empowering solution to energy issues; building homes that take care of their own energy, water, and some food needs.  I went to an earthship ‘biotecture’ day long presentation by Michael Reynolds in Salt Lake City this spring --- it was beyond fascinating.  This guy has real solutions to provide people with their true basic needs, what people really really need energy wise in their homes.  There is some real wisdom here; from what I have seen earthships have matured enough to overcome most of the ‘bad ideas’ phase, these seem quite viable. ---some day in the near future I would like to rent one out for a night or two in New Mexico to see one in person.

 

Check out the documentary garbage warrior for the flavor. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNYFlcV9R1w

It’s a full movie; but if you have never seen it, it is well worth your time in my option.

This guy has figured out how to make ‘living’ homes that passively take care of heating, water, sewage and some food needs from what nature provides naturally to the home.  They need no inputs of utilities; these are independent cells (though I will admit some clams are over stated; but I am OK with that)   . --- This is completely counter culture and counter ‘normal business’. The ideas, even if not expressed in a “purest” form in an earthship are really pointing the directions we need to be heading in energy and water conservation the future.

Here are some quotes I wrote down from the talk, which I believe captures a bit of the essence of the entire day:

“We build homes that shed the water delivered right to a home by nature and discard it. And then we turn around and build multi-million dollar city wide utilities projects to bring water to that same home!” –Michael Reynolds

Small and simple things (such as earthships) can evolve fast.  Big stuff (like multi-million dollar utility projects) can't. –Michael Reynolds 

 

He is giving a smaller talk in Colorado June 14 for just 2 hours if you are interested (start of a 400 acre earthship community near Colorado springs), real soon!   One last thing; to give you some scale to the prices, you can build a basic one room 14’x14’  for ~$15k, with passive heating, water, shower toilet and enough solar for lights and a small fridge, but US building codes will not have it (he has been able to build a few in New Mexico and outside the US).  In  "pocket of freedom" areas in the US –meaning  you can get building permits--, you can build one at about 1500 sqft for roughly ~200k; includes all the bells and whistles that the government makes you add. 

 

I will add that I have seen some heating studies that these are at getting at about 55F (13 C) in the winter and 80 F (27 C) in the summer so take that for what it is.  They seem to work great in New Mexico; staying within 20 C to 25 C over winter to summer.  

I also wanted to highlight one book on ‘bigger scale’ energy issues. I bought a fascinating text book on energy and materials “Fundamentals of Materials of energy and Environmental Sustainability”, that I would suggest if you are into the nuts and bolts of what is going on in material science that are desired in our world, and to see what leading scientists are focused on. (Sideways note:  Materials define history---iron age, bronze age, silicon age; materials are worth our attention).  This is more on the ‘normal business’ side of the coin; we (the scientists) solve the problems, companies implement the solution and society pays for all it.  Being in this world I know too well that most stuff –though not all-- is hype that gets you the next grant; rinse and repeat.  Energy is a side show to the real business of the day of getting the next grant; it makes me sad. 

Also, Chris you beat me to the video “The Expert”.  A co-worker set it to me a month or so ago saying that it reminded him of me (I am the resident ‘expert’ in the company I work for).  Every time I see it I don’t know if I should laugh or cry…  

Absolutely ridiculous. Just the amount of energy used just to manufacture the “hunk” of glass would use more energy than the solar hexagon could ever produce in its entire lifetime.
Take into account of costs such as transportation, manufacturing, installing, sealant, man hours, infrastructure, on and on and on, it becomes even more ridiculous

The fact that they raised that amount of money shows how ignorant the sheeple are when it comes to the basic laws of physics - amazing.

Aloha! Lets not forget the "real cost" to install these solar cells on our roads, which is "labor". Unless they create a machine to lay these solar tiles labor will be prohibitive, especially using the Congress mandated labor rates of Davis Bacon. Known fondly as "prevailing wages" a Class 2 Laborer in Honolulu makes $91k per year. A Class 2 Laborer is a ditch digger with no real skills. The labor costs only go up from there and based on the video it seems higher skilled electricians would have to install these tiles while the low skilled workers demo the existing roads and prep the new surfaces. If this solar roadway were ever foolishly implemented then the trade unions would gladly indebt our youth for the next three generations!
Lets consider that the US railroad system would have never been built in the 1800s if Mexcian and Chinese laborers were prohibited and railroad companies were forced to pay unions $91k per year for each laborer! The Golden Spike would have never happened at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869! 

My own personal Hawaii experience with solar panels is the corrosion factor whereby the connections rust off and even though the panel is still good the connection isn't! I am told that the Korean manufactured panels far exceed the Chinese panels for corrosion resistance and durability.

Thanks to Kevin for the video! Whats next? Perhaps I should do a Indigogo for moon panels and hire my nephew to do the graphics!

[quote=cmartenson]All of that said, I will be personally installing a 7kw PV system this year on my property.  It pencils out to about breakeven in 12 years given all the current incentives and, heck, who knows how much electricity will cost in the future?  If it goes up (as I am pretty certain it will) then the economics will only turn more strongly in favor of the system.
[/quote]
Is there a good outline or template available online for doing a PV installation cost benefit analysis?  I could do one myself, but might miss something not obvious to a non engineer.
I live in Wisconsin which means 40% overcast days.  I've always assumed this rules out decent payback for PV setups.  However, current incentive programs may tip the scale.  
As Chris pointed out, my money in the bank is doing nothing useful at this point.  Might as well put some of it to work,if the payback is even remotely practical.
My concern with continuing to live in Wisconsin is not as much electricity as natural gas.  I could put in a backup generator system that runs off of natural gas to make my home safe from electricity blackouts.  Natural gas is another matter.  Our winters are too cold to survive if both electricity and natural gas stop flowing.  I haven't come up with a decent idea on how to heat my home in a worst case scenario.

[quote=davefairtex]For me that was painful to watch.  Versions of this video happen in engineering all the time.  Sigh.
My fav: this dilbert cartoon:
http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1994-02-20/
[/quote]
Ha ha!  that's a good one!  Love Dilbert.
My favorite exchange from the Expert Video was:
Head sales guy:  "So what's preventing us from doing this?"
Engineer:  "Geometry"
+++++++++
On other matters, it's entirely possible that Spain has a lot of poorly designed and installed systems…they had a very aggressive feed in tariff program that basically anybody could make money by installing solar, anywhere and recoup money based on the kw installed, so there's a 100% probability that many systems were poorly sited, installed and maintained.
Poor incentives lead to poor outcomes.  That's as close to a human truth as you can find.
Which means the Fed's massive distortion of risk and the price of money will lead to what sorts of outcomes?

I can hardly wait seeing all the cars and trucks gliding around after an oil spill, or even a few drops, on the smoot glass or plastic surface. Much more entertaining, than, say, installing solar panels on all the boring rooftops that are still empty everywhere in the US.
Why didn't I think of that. Well, I am still OK, I am planning on installing rotating solar panels this fall over Antarctica: 1/2 year of constant sun, and remember the sun looks larger when it is close to the horizon! I just don't know where to find a fast ship to transport the panels for reinstallation on the ice (while we have it) around the north pole sometime around spring equinox. Any leads, anyone?

But aside all the sarcasm I do think they did superb on marketing, exactly because the idea is impractical, thus it had a chance to be 'new'.

There is a saying that this discussion has brought to my mind. Robert Oppenheimer once said "it is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only chance that it's not is if we don't prevent it from doing so." So all those well intended souls and ideas like Guy McPherson's and solar roadways are scary to us cause they are the kind of person or idea that would push the NUKE button just to get rid of all the others that would push it first. They are birthed from the perspective to keep things in order or prevent this or that. However the more we exercise this reality conversion technique, the quicker we will realize the exact thing we are trying to avoid.
Rose 

 

Chris and Kman's debate remind me of a couple of energy realities. Our society, whether we want to our not, is rapidly moving from stored solar energy to current. There's a big difference between the two. Problem is, stored solar took millions of years to create and we've burned through quite a bit in a hundred. No surprise then that it produced both massive dependency problems and massive environmental catastrophe.Solar is the energy source for all life on earth. Unlike stored carbon forms, the last time I checked, this one will go on for a billion years and doesn't seem to poison life forms…or politicians. Passive solar, intelligent design, and insulation are not only desperately needed, but have been used by mankind for a long long time. They work and they give very good return. Regulate homes and buildings to have unobstructed southern views and deep, thick insulation. This can all be done on abundant, cheap materials. 
Food is our most pressing problem. We must shift our food production and delivery system from stored to current solar. Funny thing there, if you remove the petroleum, GMOs, pesticides, monocrops and poisons, it actually IS efficient. Permaculture demonstrates over and over that mother nature has been at it a little longer than us, and like a HEALTHY economy, actually works on an unrivaled system of check and ballance…  

Here's a website from ca.gov that shows random solar facts, including average cost to install: $5.6/watt.
http://www.californiasolarstatistics.ca.gov/

Your Tax Dollars At Work.

At $5.6/watt, costs to install a 2.4 kw system is about $13.5k w/o incentives, and it generates $720/year in electricity, that's a 5.3% return on investment per year, for the next 25 years.  Try getting that at a bank.  Oh yeah, that's a tax-free ROI too.

I don't see a downside.

Now we need access to all that cheap credit provided by the Fed, so we can borrow at 0.25%.  Install solar on 10 million rooftops, and then sit back and collect the spread between 0.25% and 5.3%…