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View Diary: Nearly triple efficiency and lower cost: thin-film solar cell breakthrough (281 comments)

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  •  Solar Roads (11+ / 0-)

    I've always thought that having solar panels put into a thin layer on roads would be the two hundred year solution to transportation/CO2...basically, make our highway system truly into a grid (but a power one)...and have car tires be contact points pulling power off the grid...eliminate the gas station entirely.  You could then have the car pay tolls for usage rather than to fill up.  Then everyone's paying for the highway system and energy companies go away, which would be good for many governments, not just ours.

    That and I'd really like to have those unmanned driving cars doing my errands (send it to the dry cleaners, convenience store, grocery store...ain't no reason I gotta be there to pick up that stuff...order online and send my car to go pick it up)...

    I can dream, can't I?

    •  Great Idea (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TexasDemocrat, Turbonerd, raincrow, elwior

      I thought of things like that to. Although the furthest I got was to wondering where the excess energy when your Alternator no longer is needed goes? If it's just wasted couldn't you attach or direct it somewhere else? Unfortunately I'm a lawyer not a scientist. That is I am assuming that you are losing your own paid for energy at some point in driving. Whether it be going to another battery for whatever instead or something like you describe.

      •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ClevelandAttorney, raincrow

        Maybe it goes back into the system somehow through the same contact points, or used to power your battery?  Yeah, I'm a lawyer too...we're the wrong ones to

        •  I was just reading about it and I would rather (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TexasDemocrat, raincrow

          a law review article.

          The only thing I take is some alternators can produce more Amps, some are more productive. :-)

        •  There is no excess energy in an alternator (1+ / 0-)
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          the diodes and regulator system mean that it produces just what is needed to support the electrical load of the car + a small amount to keep the battery charged.

          If you start a car with a discharged battery (somehow) the belt might squeal for a minute or two because the regulator system places a large load on the alternator, thus soaking up a lot of engine power.... but shortly the battery voltage rises, that alternator is released from extreme duty and goes back to normal use and the belts are now running normally, not under heavy load.

          So alternators are a great advance over car DC Generators of the '50s and before. It seems paradoxical that while cars all basically run on DC, it is better to make AC first in the alternator and convert it to DC (Semiconductor diode bridge) for use locally, at the radio or the headlights or the engine computer.....because the regulation of the alternator is much more sophisticated, losses are less, and the diode conversion efficiency is high....

          Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

          by blindcynic on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 02:03:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Analogous to what Current Hybrid Cars do... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ClevelandAttorney, IreGyre, raincrow, kurt

        which is to capture rather than dissipate what is discharged as waste mechanical energy in conventional gas cars.  You're also mis-understanding the function of an alternator, which actually causes a small net energy loss to the gas engine on either a conventional or hybrid car, but toward the worthwhile end of replenishing the charge on the conventional electrical battery to offset the drain from spark plugs, accessories, lights, etc.  It's NOT a source of "free lunch", but better abstractly modeled as yet another tiny source of friction adding to the net forces the engine must work  to overcome.

      •  When the need for electricity from the alternator (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, TexasDemocrat

        drops it just produces less (or none at all).  This reduces the amount of energy extracted from the gas engine, so there's nothing to go to waste.

        Even though you're admittedly in a non-technical field, I think it's great that you even think about things like this and post them where others can respond.  Asking questions is how we move forward!

        -7.38, -5.38 (that's a surprise)

        I lie to myself because I'm the only one who continues to believe me. - Vermin

        by 84thProblem on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 10:23:04 AM PST

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    •  way too complicated (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've read many articles about solar roads. So far, no one has come up with a solution that is even remotely feasible. It's a clever idea because of the ridiculous amount of square miles of roads we have here in America alone. But roads have to support enormous weight. That's a major engineering problem in itself. Creating cheap solar power is complicated enough.

      We have PLENTY of surface area available for solar power without using roads.

      •  How do you plow it? (4+ / 0-)

        When it loads up with ice, a steel scraper would wreck it.
        I'd rather see the tops of every mall and bigbox completely covered with PVs, powering that building and maybe the grid around it.

        If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

        by CwV on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 10:03:55 AM PST

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        •  amen (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          One standard big box store is 10,000 square meters.

          At 10% efficiency that's 1 megawatt of energy.

          In addition to that if that energy is captured, they will use those giant air conditioners on their rooftops less.

        •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

          This depends on the material...if it is covered by translucent road paving material, you'd have a pavement covering above the solar thin strips...

          And you may also be able to use the power to heat the roads...there are plenty of ways around this, but it will definitely take designers of different fields...but I bet a lot of the technology and material exist today...

      •  The right-of-way is a resource provided by roads (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TexasDemocrat, melo

        Germany, for example, has installed solar hardware along segments of their national highway system. The land is already a federal right-of-way, vegetation won't block sunlight, and access for inspection, maintenance, and construction is the highway itself. Even in the northern lattitudes, Germany has shown us that solar power is feasible and practical.

        This approach requires a different kind of technology for energy transmission and distribution. A smart grid. Technology that can accommodate the transition from centralized energy production to distributed and local energy sources and everything in between.

        The US can do this. All it takes is the will to get started.

        And to vote all of the damn obstructionist right wingers out of our way.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 10:24:00 AM PST

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    •  I think it's even easier (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, Calamity Jean, mrkvica

      Jusr put solar cells over parking lots.  Ink of the area used for parking lots in this country.  Screw the roof of the mall. Just put em on a grid above the mall parking lot....which Re much, much bigger.

      In the summer it would shade the cars,, in the winter keep the snow off them.

      And seriously, it's not like anyone could complain that they would make parking lots look any uglier than they already are.

      "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

      by Empty Vessel on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 01:40:19 PM PST

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    •  Just plain solar heating is easier to do (0+ / 0-)

      The road surface generally gets very hot from the sun. If you just pass some copper tubes underneath it, you could heat up quite a bit of water.

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