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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Cool Fix for a Hot Planet

Air Date: Week of

New solar panel technology has us looking to roadways to harness the sun’s energy. Nirja Parekh reports.


YOUNG: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Jeff Young. Well, just ahead: how your cell phone could be fueling the fighting in Africa, but first this Cool Fix for a Hot Planet from Nirja Parekh.


PAREKH: Solar energy panels are making a move from their usual rooftop resting places down to our roadways. This new technology promises to create a high-tech highway to harness the sun’s energy.


PAREKH: An Idaho-based company called Solar Roadways was recently awarded a hundred thousand dollars by the U.S. Department of Transportation to produce a prototype of their solar road panel. These energy-generating panels are designed to replace petroleum-based asphalt on roads and will collect enough energy to power businesses and homes.

Each panel measures 12 by 12 feet and is strong enough for cars to drive on. The panels will absorb and store the sun’s rays in cells, and also work as the energy grid, distributing the collected power, and other services, like telephone, cable and Internet lines to homes or businesses.

The solar panels will contain embedded LEDs, which will light up the road for safer nighttime driving, while built-in heating elements keep roads from freezing over. A single panel costs nearly $7,000 to produce, but could generate up to 7,600 watt-hours daily. Researchers say if these panels are used to pave one mile of a four-lane highway, the captured solar energy could power 500 homes.

And if the project meets its goal to cut U.S. dependency on fossil fuels, it could have us walking – and driving – on sunshine. That’s this week’s Cool Fix for a Hot Planet. I’m Nirja Parekh.

YOUNG: And if you have a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet, we'd like to know it. If we use your idea on the air, we'll send you a sleek electric blue Living on Earth tire gauge. Keeping your tires properly inflated can save hundreds of dollars a year in fuel.
Email us at coolfix—that's one word - coolfix - at l-o-e dot org.




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