Paving roads with solar panels

 “Politicians seem to suffer from confusion between communication and policy making on the one hand and between corporate interests and public benefit on the other.”


by Victor Cherubim 

( November 16, 2016, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Who said “necessity is the mother of invention”? If Plato said it then, we note, “invention is the mother of necessity”, now. As of November 2016, 193 nations have signed up to the UN Climate Change Paris Agreement (UNFCCC) of 12 December 2015 and 110 have ratified it dealing with mitigation of greenhouse gases.

The Marrakech (Morocco) Conference from 7 to 18 November 2016 is in session to accelerate the response to this challenge. Whilst the Paris Agreement gave “pathways and final destination in respect to decisive action on Climate Change”, there are many roadblocks to its realisation. The Big Question is how President Trump will affect clean energy and climate change, especially as he has in the past described climate change as “fictional without scientific evidence and that US should not waste its financial resources.”

Solar freaks

With all this uncertainty, there is a vast amount of renewal energy technology in the offing. With solar roof tops to roads, there are the so called “solar freaks” that are the driving force for most new innovations.

France has announced plans to pave 1000 km (621 miles) of roads with solar panels. perhaps, to accelerate the efforts of the country to zero –emission.

It will possibly be the first country to do wide scale installation of solar panels on public roads.

The French Minister of Environment is as quoted “stubbornly insisting on having trucks and cars driving on the silicon 15cm photovoltaic panels 7mm thick encapsulated to keep them dry7 in rain or snow”.

The potential of solar energy has always been recognised, but never fully revealed. It is

without a doubt cost intensive. but it could provide up to 5 million people with most abundant with “cheap” solar energy.

Is it an engineering folly? 

Many say that in the context of fiscal austerity and climate emergency, the decision to try out “paving roads with sunshine” is questionable?

But what is hard to defend from an environmental point of view may well be justifiable from an economic point of view?

Think of the jobs it will create, think of the multiplication effect on technological innovation?

Projection for the future

Tesla driverless cars driving on photovoltaic panelled roads may someday be a reality.

What about cities where humans have to live and work. Whilst solving the problem of travel, it may create a monster of “urban heat areas” without moisture and vegetation, perhaps adding to night time temperature some 15 times hotter than during day.

Until recently France did not show much interest in solar energy. It specialised in nuclear power.

French Journalists Olivier Danielo and Richard Robert of Paris Technical Review state:

“Politicians seem to suffer from confusion between communication and policy making on the one hand and between corporate interests and public benefit on the other.”

Perhaps, our politicians in Sri Lanka should take a lesson not to jump at every fancy, but think of the size of our country and not to macadamise our green pastures. People flock to our land because of its natural beauty, not man made structures.

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