In China – Solar Roads

April 17, 2018


People get really indignant about the possibility of solar roads, but I think, frankly, if China decides there will be solar roads, there will be solar roads.


The road to China’s autonomous-driving future is paved with solar panels, mapping sensors and electric-battery rechargers as the nation tests an “intelligent highway” that could speed the transformation of the global transportation industry.

The technologies will be embedded underneath transparent concrete used to build a 1,080-meter-long (3,540-foot-long) stretch of road in the eastern city of Jinan. About 45,000 vehicles barrel over the section every day, and the solar panels inside generate enough electricity to power highway lights and 800 homes, according to builder Qilu Transportation Development Group Co.

Yet Qilu Transportation wants to do more than supply juice to the grid: it wants the road to be just as smart as the vehicles of the future. The government says 10 percent of all cars should be fully self-driving by 2030, and Qilu considers that an opportunity to deliver better traffic updates, more accurate mapping and on-the-go recharging of electric-vehicle batteries—all from the ground up.

“The highways we have been using can only carry vehicles passing by, and they are like the 1.0-generation product,” said Zhou Yong, the company’s general manager. “We’re working on the 2.0 and 3.0 generations by transplanting brains and a nervous system.”

The construction comes as President Xi Jinping’s government pushes ahead with a “Made in China 2025” plan to help the nation become an advanced manufacturing power and not just a supplier of sneakers, clothes and toys for export. The 10 sectors highlighted include new-energy vehicles, information technology and robotics.



42 Responses to “In China – Solar Roads”

  1. Don Osborn Says:

    It is not that “People get really indignant about the possibility of solar roads” but that experienced professionals in PV know and say that on the roadbed is the WORST way to deploy solar and that the folks getting grants for this (esp in US) are basically scamming the public.
    Solar on roadside sound barriers, on top of carport structures (Solarports), racked ground mounted and rooftop mounted are ALL so much more efficient, so much more less costly, and basically so much better choices. We are just worried about these “solar roadways” giving solar a bad rap.
    Keep up your otherwise GREAT work. You do a real service.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      It may be right, it may be wrong – but I tell this to people about nuclear too, — It will be part of the climate solution if China says it will – no bearing on right, wrong, best practice, or not. Just the way they roll over there.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “Indignant” is not the proper word. Exasperated, frustrated, discouraged, even a bit angry are better descriptors of what those with any sense feel when they hear about solar roads. Don Osborn pretty much nails it, and the fact that there are now scam artists in several countries who are pushing solar roads doesn’t make the concept any more workable. One thing the human species has always had in abundance is crooks, and China is no exception—-the difference is that I would expect that some heads to literally toll once the Chinese government wakes up to how time and money have been wasted.

        (And since “nuclear” IS a valid part of the climate solution, it is a bit of a logic fail to conflate it with the scam of solar roads. If China “says” yes to more nuclear, it will at least be doing some good).

    • leslie graham Says:

      “..experienced professionals in PV know and say that on the roadbed is the WORST way to deploy solar…”

      Yeah sure. And yet here we are. Solar roads are being researched and piloted in half a dozen countries already.
      It’s simply a no brainer. Every developed country on the planet has thousands of miles of flat hard surfaces already in existence that are doing nothing.
      It might take a while to get the right surface and it won’t be easy but it’s going to happen – just as I’ve been saying for years.

      People who say ‘it can’t be done’ should get out of the way of the people who are doing it. And to make completely unsubstantiated claims of fraud and ‘scamming’ about people who have dedicated years of their lives to trying to find some of the solutions to climate is just cheap.
      Stop parroting the fossil fuel lobby propagandists who say ‘it’s just the WORST’ and lend a hand in the solar road revolution that is just getting started.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Ono of the best commentaries on solar roads to date. Quotes Elon Musk, one of the heroes of solar energy, and directly counters some of Leslie G’s foolishness.
        Reaction, Leslie?

        • leslie graham Says:

          He’s wrong. Time will prove it.
          Reaction parrot boy?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Ignoring the snide (and stupid) “parrot boy”, and admitting that I often attack Musk for his Mars foolishness, I will say that he DOES have some expertise re: solar cells and I DO tend to value his opinions WAY more than simple two word statements from “Leslie Who?”

            “He’s wrong”?

            “You’re deluded”

      • dumboldguy Says:

        More about China’s project—-note the comparative costs for solar roads versus conventional paving. Leslie? Peter?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        On second reading, I have to ask Leslie if he is spoofing us with his comment.

        “Every developed country on the planet has thousands of miles of flat hard surfaces already in existence that are doing nothing”?
        (to say nothing of the millions of square miles of ;and suitable for solar panels)

        “….lend a hand in the solar road revolution that is just getting started”?
        (actually just entering the final failure stage)

        Way to go, Leslie—-I was thinking you were just a science ignorant, bright-sided no-brainer—-if I was wrong and you’re kidding us, I apologize.

        • leslie graham Says:

          You can’t handle that you absurd anti-solar rants are being disproved more and more with every passing year.
          I don’t really have to add anything – I just have to wait.
          Solar roads is one form or another are a no-brainer.
          End of.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Leslie is losing coherence—-perhaps he needs to lower the alcohol content of the perfume he puts on his sleeve hanky. My “absurd anti-solar rants are being disproved more and more with every passing year”? LOL. Considering that I am a big fan of solar and have NEVER posted an anti-solar rant here or anywhere else, Leslie has seriously misspoken.

            He says “I don’t really have to add anything – I just have to wait”. Yes,waiting is a good idea, if he stops sniffing the sleeve hanky his body will metabolize his alcohol OD—-he shouldn’t drive or operate machinery until he sobers up, though.

            “Solar roads is one form or another are a no-brainer. End of” (?)

            End of what? Lucidity? Logic? Sanity?

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        “lend a hand in the solar road revolution”

        The problem for me is that putting PV under a road MUST be more expensive than putting PV someplace else. And I am not happy about any RE “revolution” that does not offer RE at the lowest possible cost.

        So, what I see here is a solution for a problem that simply does not exist, as if we should delay building PV in standard ways as we wait endlessly for new technologies that are not needed. Again.

        On the other hand, research in RE must continue and should be greatly increased. (Plenty of money for it – the military has 50 times more money than it needs.) There are so many underfunded RE areas that are potentially game changing:

        Tidal/water flow
        [CO2] -> methanol or ethanol
        HVDC optimization
        Electric roads dynamic charging
        EV battery optimization
        International power sharing

        Maybe the bucks we spend on solar roadways will pay off someday. But if it does, I really really doubt it will be as solar roadways.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Keeping an open mind, Inhabitat has a summary of some of the “Solar Road” type projects ongoing worldwide, including in China, France, Hungary, Korea and the States.

    ” Solar road or pathway projects around the world are showing that streets can both provide firm footing and generate clean energy. Inhabitat rounded up six projects in places as diverse as China and rural Georgia to highlight potentially game-changing technologies in the solar road sphere.”

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Redsky, you are a good man who cares, but beware the trap of wishful thinking. Solar roads are NEVER going to replace properly installed solar panels. Please read the links I’ve posted here and get educated about why.

      • leslie graham Says:

        No-one is claiming they are going to ‘replace’ anything.
        They will be in addition to solar panels in some form or another everywhere.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          If those “solar panels in some form or another everywhere” are superior to solar roads in EVERY respect (as they are), why would anyone want to build SR “in addition to” them?

  3. Hasn’t there been some push also to extract kinetic energy from roads as well? Combined you are looking at roads filling their energy needs for themselves and freeing up other renewable sources to ship their energy elsewhere

  4. Glenn Martin Says:

    Solar roads may be worth exploring but surely only after you’ve covered all the flat roofs out there which would be easier and cheaper.

    • leslie graham Says:

      There are hundreds of thousands of square miles of flat hard surfaces all over the world that are ready and waiting for a solar surface.
      They are called ‘roads’.
      I’m not suggesting it is going to be easy or instant but it is completely obvious that it is going to happen.
      By the way – I was an environmental consultant for a top Scottish company and was what I believe Americans call ‘the valedictorian’ student at a top Scottish Uni. I don’t usually brag about this but when know-nothings accuse me of being ignorant about science I tend to respond with this basic fact

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Leslie can’t seem to bring himself to argue against the science and logic that says solar roads are a waste of time or to refute the arguments in the several links I posted. Nor can he or anyone else find links to ANYONE saying that solar roads are a terrific idea—all we get are “reports” that somewhere, someone is building a solar road boondoggle because someone is foolish enough to give them money, and that they MAY someday prove workable..

        Instead he resorts to argument from authority, stating that he WAS an environmental consultant for a top Scottish company and was the valedictorian at a top Scottish university (but he doesn’t like to brag—LOL) and therefore knows what he is talking about.

        Swell, Leslie—-tell us all about it—-in what subjects did you take your undergraduate and graduate degrees?—-what top Scottish company did you work for”—what types of “consulting ” did you do? Why should we know-nothings accept your all-knowingness? Because you SAY so? Actually, anyone who would keep repeating this bit of “completely obvious that it is going to happen” foolishness is likely hopelessly deluded and science ignorant, but in fairness we should offer Leslie to support his non-bragging with some details.

        “There are hundreds of thousands of square miles of flat hard surfaces all over the world that are ready and waiting for a solar surface. They are called ‘roads’.”
        I’m not suggesting it is going to be easy or instant but it is completely obvious that it is going to happen’.

  5. J4Zonian Says:

    There’s no doubt we haven’t done enough with other solar…or wind, or geothermal, or micro-hydro, or tidal or wave or reforesting or agriculture or refrigeration… but some facts should be pointed out in this argument over the Oct 29, 2079 price of pork bellies.

    No one can tell the future and no one knows whether solar roads will contribute or not. The cost of things when they’re being developed has little to do with the cost once they have been; the current rapidly dropping cost of solar and wind prove that. No one is saying solar roads will replace rooftop panels any more than rooftop panels will replace utility solar PV or, when we build enough and start to use it wisely, CSP. Wind won’t replace solar no matter how low the price goes; solar won’t replace wind; neither will replace hydro. It’s a ridiculous straw person argument; each of those has a crucial part to play in a harmonized renewable grid

    Lots of things that might be solutions need to be pursued, even if in the end they might not be—or might only be minor solutions. At least they won’t be nukes.

    Neither rooftop nor CSP solar can compete on price with utility scale solar and either solar or wind may fall behind the other on price, but they all have crucial parts to play and are major solutions to climate catastrophe. Rooftop solar, eg. takes up no extra land, is close to the need, democratizes energy, provides distributed power, and can be a valuable part of micro-grids, so it’s a valuable adjunct to utility solar PV, 24/7 solar thermal, hydro, wind, and other renewables. Thin film and other solar technologies may revolutionize the use of solar energy, making rooftop panels obsolete. (1) Some technology may come along to revolutionize for energy-collecting, car- and sign-regulating roads. Maybe solar roads won’t work, and maybe they won’t work to the extent that some people are hoping (nuke fans—anything sounding familiar?) but someone needs to pursue the possibility.

    Nukes have never paid off in the US except to their owners and manufacturers; we’ve spent more on R&D, security, criminally inadequate yet amazingly overpriced(-Anderson) insurance, and other subsidies, than they’ve ever produced in electricity. Especially now, as the prices of utility scale solar PV, wind, and batteries continue to drop like corium lava through the crust, half the nukes in the US are leaking money even faster than they’re leaking tritium and bankruptcy news. They make no sense at all. If they pay better in China, that’s too bad, though it’s far more likely the government there is just ignoring how little sense they make and is doing them anyway, as autocracies tend to do. Either way, they’re still a terrible idea in dozens of ways, but for now an even worse way than all the other worst ways is that they take money, materials, expertise, and most of all, hope and attention, from actual solutions, while increasing carbon emissions for decades.


    • redskylite Says:

      Thanks for this interesting link and well constructed comment, makes good sense to me. Planners need an array of carbon free solutions t best suit locations and maybe one day “Solar Roads” will suit some locations that need a power source.

      The International Renewable Energy Agency have produced a recommended/suggested RoadMap to limit the rise to below 2°C, that needs Renewable Energy upping by at least a factor of 6. We really need to accelerate on this, and the more tools in the box the better.

      “Keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (°C) is technically feasible. It would also be more economically, socially and environmentally beneficial than the path resulting from current plans and policies. However, the global energy system must undergo a profound transformation, from one largely based on fossil fuels to one that enhances efficiency and is based on renewable energy. Such a global energy transformation – seen as the culmination
      of the “energy transition” that is already happening in many countries – can create a world that is more prosperous and inclusive.”

      The 76 page IRENA report is summarized here

      Renewable Energy Needs To Scale Up By A Factor Of Six, Reports IRENA

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Can we PLEASE go back to relying on science instead of wishful thinking and STOP talking about solar roads as any kind of viable solution? I do NOT understand why people who accept the science behind climate change and AGW insist upon ignoring the science that says solar roads are a scam and distraction from real solutions. Roads are roads (we’ve had paved ones since Roman times) and solar PV is an entirely different animal that works best when it is NOT buried under a road. Solar roads will NEVER work, and “exploring that possibility” is a fool’s errand—-JFC, people! GIVE IT UP!

      In the meantime, here’s a piece on what China is really doing:

      Jeffy, it’s nice that you chose to give us another anti-nuke rant here, but you might want to ask James Hansen and all those other scientists (who are FAR more qualified than you) seeem to think that nukes ought to be part of the interim “solution” to the crisis.

      And regarding the link, I cannot wait to get some “ultra thin” solar cells embedded in my skin, as the article suggests. What a great alternative to tattoos!

      • dumboldguy Says:

        ooops—–“ask Hansen…WHY THEY…seem to think”

      • redskylite Says:

        Dr Hansen, states that we need to e open-minded and use all low/non carbon energy sources. Nuclear is an answer for some countries, probably not a good idea in mine “Shaky Isles” on the Pacific rim of fire, with Earthquake, Tsunami and Volcanic threats, probably not a good idea to build on melting Arctic “permafrost” land or too close to approaching sea rises. I notice that Breitbart critiques the solar roads/pathway concept too, well done for not quoting the gutter press.

        • redskylite Says:

          “I think you need to be open-minded,” Hansen said. “We should be looking at all the carbon-free energy sources, and figuring out what their contribution should be — and frankly, the market should be helping us do it. … We should have a carbon-free energy portfolio, and let the market find what is the least expensive way. We should be doing [research and development] on all the good candidates, and certainly nuclear is one of them.”

        • dumboldguy Says:

          The message that Hansen et al were trying to deliver is (from their letter):

          “Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires. While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power”

          Markets be damned—-they’re what got us into this trouble—-we need to pay more attention to the science.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      “Rooftop solar…democratizes energy…”

      How does the privatization of a public commons sector (electric utilities) “democratize” energy?

      You know who came up with that framing? People who want to sell homeowners PV systems.

      You know who doesn’t want to spend another dime of their money on renewable energy for all? Homeowners with their own PV systems.

      It’s not democratic. It’s not patriotic. It’s not liberating. It’s isolationism when what we need is collectivism.

  6. redskylite Says:

    Straying of the topic from Chinese roads to the Amazon river, and putting Solar energy to good use. . .

    The Amazon’s solar-powered river bus:How can you create public transport in the jungle without polluting it? The isolated Achuar peoples of Ecuador have created an ingenious solution.

  7. redskylite Says:

    In Sweden a trial of road that charges while driving . .

    World’s first “electric road” for mobile EV charging launched in Sweden

    • leslie graham Says:

      Things like this are happening everywhere with increasing frequency.
      It’s so disapointing that even those with some knowledge of climate change and solar energy are being suckered by the ‘solar roads won’t work’ BS from the fossil fuel lobby.
      Solar road pilot schemes are already working and will continue to develop along the same exponential curve as regular solar panels have done over the last thirty years.
      I had the same ‘arguments’ with ignorant Luddites about ‘regular’ solar panels way back in the seventies so it comes as no surprise to me that the same resistance to logic and reason exists with regard to solar ‘roads’ but it is, nevertheless, disapointing that the usual suspects have learnt nothing in the intervening decades.
      As I have already said – I don’t have to ‘debate’ the obvious this time either – I just have to wait and I will be proved right again.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Things like WHAT are happening everywhere with increasing frequency? Solutions to problems that don’t exist? Expensive and impractical solutions compared to existing alternatives? Things that are distracting from real solutions and scamming $$$ from the gullible? Please tell us.

        What’s disappointing that you would suggest that “even those with some knowledge of climate change and solar energy are being suckered by the ‘solar roads won’t work’ BS from the fossil fuel lobby”. If you’re referring to me, I nave NEVER been “suckered” by the fossil fuel interests. In fact, if anyone is being suckered by them here, it’s YOU—-I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they are behind SR and many of these other stupid “breakthroughs”—-anything that takes money and attention away from REAL RE solutions and/or discredits RE by failing (like SR in Idaho) is just their thing.

        “Solar road pilot schemes are already working and will continue to develop along the same exponential curve as regular solar panels have done over the last thirty years”.
        WOW! Where did you come up with that? Got any citations other than “non-fact based opinion of the sleeve hanky sniffer”? Do you sell Solar Roadway stock in your spare time?

        ATTENTION—LOGIC FAIL (LOUD BUZZER, FLASHING LIGHTS) Leslie is arguing that the arguments against solar panels “back when” and the arguments against solar roads today represent the “same resistance to logic and reason”, and are being put forth by some ill-defined group he calls “the usual suspects” who have “learnt nothing in the intervening decades”. And he also crows “As I have already said – I don’t have to ‘debate’ the obvious this time either – I just have to wait and I will be proved right again.”

        What unadulterated horseshit! A speech suitable for delivery only to oneself while admiring oneself in the mirror. What were those arguments against solar panels back then and how do they conflate with today’s arguments against solar roads? How does bring “proven right” at one point in time predict that one will be proven right on some other topic at some other time? Can we say non sequitur, children?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Another waste of time and money on something that CAN be done but shouldn’t. It’s a bit sturdier and more scientifically sound than solar roads, but still expensive and a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist—-vehicles can be charged more efficiently and cheaply in many other ways .

      I look at all that shiny copper and think how the thieves will be out ripping it up to sell. I think of how it can be short circuited deliberately or accidentally by things getting into the slot. I think of how it will work when covered with snow and ice, or what will happen when salt is used to melt same and and electrolyte drains into the slot. I think of what will happen while a vehicle is connected and has an accident—-how many feet or yards of the track will be torn up, and how difficult will it be to replace?

      I will again say that just because someone thinks of something, and it can be done (without regard to practicality or cost), that is no reason to do it when better and cheaper alternatives exist.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      The Swedish slot car track. Hmmmm……..

  8. redskylite Says:

    From what I studied in Climate Change and Global warming the number one enemy to our Goldilocks Earth is from burning coal, especially coal that formed in swampy locations. With respect to this great thought invoking blog, I doubt any nation on Earth or any professional and experienced energy provider would seek tips or be influenced by any of the ideas from the dear comment contributors to these posts.

    U.K has developed wind, solar, nuclear plans in development and in use, and finally has manged to power itself without touching the black and brown stuff of the last few centuries.

    I welcome research and development in all non carbon producing fuel fields, including “Steampunks” kinetic energy pointers. Not all power sources have to be grandiose central buildings, smaller modest providers can be integrated in a distributed network (such the humble car battery). We no longer need to lock ourselves into big central stations and networks on cables and pylons.

    If the U.K can achieve life without coal, slowly the rest can to. So lets stop bickering and fight for our future.

    “The UK electricity grid has set yet another record for operating without coal power, as the world’s first industrial economy continues to wean itself off the high-emitting fossil fuel.”

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