Some failures on the way to a cleaner future

August 19, 2019 0 Comments

I don’t want to say “I told you so”, but how do you say it, without sounding negative or arrogant. I don’t want to sound that way but someone has to point out obvious things once in a while to make sure more mistakes are not made in the future.

You might recall that I wrote a blog entry about solar-powered roads a few years ago. I tried to be as positive as possible in saying that there was little chance of success, but it was difficult. The idea of solar-powered roads is too difficult from and engineering standpoint and far too expensive from an economic standpoint. Now we have confirmation that the idea does not work – not with current materials – and I doubt it will work anytime soon. Check out this report from a solar road test project in France.

As I mentioned a few years ago, solar panels for pavement will probably work in niche applications. I suspect some wealthy individuals could install them in their driveway where there is less traffic and likely to last longer. Maybe bike lanes could have some solar panels as they have fared much better in testing. Still, the best real estate for solar panels is roof tops. Roofs have the most access to sunlight and there is no additional land/forests that needs to be destroyed in order to install the power generation. Building huge solar farms is probably more economical in some locations but they do disrupt the ecosystem.

In another bit of alternative energy news, an electric airplane had a rough time on its maiden flight in Norway. The Alpha Electro G2 crash-landed in a lake. No word yet on what caused the crash. It is an unfortunate ending for the Norwegian inventor of the airplane and I hope it does not hinder enthusiasm for the development of solar-powered or electric airplanes. Air travel is one of the biggest sources of pollution in the world today and I covered some efforts in the past to change that. As many people have pointed out, electric airplanes for mass transit do not make economic sense yet, but at least they work. Advances in battery and materials technology should make electric airplanes a bit more competitive in the future. Even if they end up being a “toy of the wealthy” and only for short haul flights, it will be an overall good development if they are fueled by renewable energy. Both noise and air pollution will be lowered in areas with more electric airplanes.

Progress happens but there will always be some bumps in the road – especially solar roads.

Meteorologist Justin Loew

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