Innovation

Solar Technology Can Now Power Your Roads — And Your Clothes

by Maya Kachroo-Levine

June 11, 2018
Photo by Skeeze/Pixabay.

Our world is currently powered by human-generated electricity.

And while it doesn’t seem like we’re going to run out of electricity any time soon, that doesn’t mean it’s a sustainable resource. Power plants emit pollution into the air on a daily basis, meaning that generating electricity is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Solar energy is working to combat that. The idea is simple: Use a natural resource — the sun — for electricity instead of nonrenewable resources.

Other than pointing out the occasional set of solar panels on the roof of a mansion, a lot of us are pretty unaware of the advancements solar energy has made in the last few years.

Here are two recently emergent solar-based technologies:

A vehicle drives on the transparent, weight-bearing solar panels of the world's first photovoltaic expressway in Jinan, Shandong province’s capital city. Photo by Luo bo/AP.

Solar-powered roads

Tokyo has recently announced plans to build solar roads to help make their 2020 Olympics into an eco-friendly event. These experimental roadways are made with load-bearing solar panels that are covered in a special resin, according to the Independent. Cars can drive on these durable roads while the panels generate electricity for adjacent communities.

Japan’s solar road was installed in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven convenience store in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, in May 2018. The shop’s manager has high hopes for the development: “The solar road system can generate 16,145 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, covering about 9% of the entire electricity that the store consumes.” 

And in China – the world’s leading solar energy producer — a photovoltaic expressway recently promised a new future for clean energy (until thieves stole one of the panels, that is).  

Last year, solar-powered pavement technology was also tested out along Route 66. If roadways using solar-powered technology catch on, it could help encourage clean energy use in the U.S. In fact, the Jefferson City News Tribune reports that the LED-embedded solar panels along the famed highway “will be used to generate electricity for the Route 66 Welcome Center.” 

According to Solar Roadway, the company behind this technology, the solar-powered pavement along Route 66 can generate clean energy and also has thermal LED bulbs that can melt snow during winter. 

Wearable solar

Wearable solar goes far beyond solar-powered watches. In 2016, the textiles industry discovered that solar panels can be stitched into panels of fabric. Solar textiles can not only increase the renewable energy that’s collected, they can also increase the number of solar devices in your home. For example, these solar textiles can be stitched into curtains, tablecloths, and even car upholstery, allowing heated seats to be powered by renewable energy.

Solar innovation isn’t going anywhere. Within just the last few years, we’ve made solar a seamless part of everyday life, literally weaving it into the clothes on our backs.

Share image by Skeeze/Pixabay.

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Solar Technology Can Now Power Your Roads — And Your Clothes