Out of the box

Asphalt issues

Dear Editor:

If there is an award for thinking outside the box, then the folks who came up with the idea of converting asphalt road surfaces into clean, solar energy generators definitely deserve the prize.  They’ve made a very imaginative connection between the need for clean, green energy and the miles of paved asphalt road surfaces all around us that absorb sunlight day in and day out.

According to the people who came up with the solar road idea, there are 25,000 square miles of parking lots, driveways and road surfaces in the lower 48 United States alone.  And if those 25,000 square miles of road surface were covered with solar panels (at a mere 15 percent efficiency) it would produce three times more electricity than the United States uses annually, or almost enough to power the whole world.

Such an ambitious undertaking would obviously be expensive, but the technology already exists to make it happen: it just needs to be used in new ways.  For example, glass can apparently be made as strong as steel and could be adapted for use as a road material, which would allow solar panels embedded underneath to absorb sunlight.

The solar road idea may sound a bit out there, but when you consider the pressing need the world has for finding new sources of clean, green energy, thinking that comes from outside the box is what it’s going to take to get us there and allow us to leave a cleaner, greener world for our grandchildren.

And when you look at the ever-increasing price of non-renewable petroleum (which is needed to make asphalt), solar roads and highways may ultimately prove to be one of the less expensive options for creating the cleaner, greener world we want for future generations.