Friday, April 14, 2017
Several years ago I talked about a revolutionary new idea in Living Green called Solar Roadways. How brilliant! There are hundreds of thousands of miles of roadway in the United States. Imagine if all of the surface area was actually generating electricity!
While it was a great idea, the material science just isn't there. Plastic, no matter how durable, can't compete with concrete and asphalt. Maybe in the future there will be some space-aged clear material that will not only allow light to pass through it, but will also be strong enough to withstand a semi truck crashing on top of it. Or maybe nano technology will allow micro photovoltaic cells to be incorporated right into asphalt.
But for now, Solar Roadways is a failure. Solar Roadways has been in development for 6.5 years and received a total of $4.3 million in funding, but the fledgling project has not even come close to producing enough energy to make the investment worth it.
The project generated an average of 0.62 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per day since it began publicly posting power data. To put that in perspective, the average microwave or blow drier consumes about 1 kWh per day.
But while we may not have space-aged energy producing roads, solar power is still making slow but steady advancement. In fact, something of a milestone in solar power was reached recently in sunny California.
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California is getting so much power from solar that wholesale electricity prices are turning negative
The extraordinary success of solar power in some pockets of the world that combine sunshine with high investment in the technology mean that governments and energy companies are having radically to rethink the way they manage, and charge for, electricity.
California is one such a place.
In March, it passed a milestone on the route to powering the whole state sustainably. For the first time, more than half the power needs of the entire state came from solar power for a few hours that day, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The power came from utility-scale solar photovoltaic farms, solar thermal plants, and the panels installed on private homes. Based on the data it collects, the EIA estimated that in each hour of peak times, that total capacity produced 4 million kWh of electricity.
It's a massive change: Just 15 years ago, the state produced almost no power from solar at all.
California now accounts for a sizable chunk of the US market, having the highest energy demand of any state after Texas. It also has almost half of all the solar power in the US.