Thursday, July 1, 2010

Solar Highway v3.1

Do you ever have your best thoughts during inoportune moments?  For me, it's always in the shower.  Maybe it's all the hot water that gets the brain cells going in the morning, thinking of fresh new things.  Of course, I often wonder if I could ever come up with a new idea - hasn't someone always thought of it before me?  I decided to jot this one down for posterity.

The solar highway.

Or maybe it should be the Solar Highway?  You see, there have been at least a couple different versions thought of before this one.  I did partly get the idea from them, I'm sure.  For reference, here are the ones I've seen:

But here is my idea.  This may be only best applied to ultra urban areas, but then those are the locations that probably need the electricity the most.  Please excuse my poor photoshop skills:
Why not put panels on poles in the median?  There certainly isn't room in the right of way like in rural Oregon, so why not make use of the median and airspace above the vehicles?  I used a call box panel and pole as a template, but more significant structures could be used with many more panels.  I would think this could generate quite a bit of electricity.  It might also reduce the urban heat island effect.

I have heard ideas (in the Bay Area) of using the median and airspace above for a BART line, or high speed rail.  This isn't practical because of the interchanges - the rail line would have to go above the overcrossing.  With such flat slopes for rail, it would basically remain this height for the entire length of the median run - just not practical.  But the solar panels don't need to be continuous.  They could break at the interchanges, so there is nothing higher than the overpasses.

Would this be a minimal enough visual obstruction?  Maybe, maybe not... but it's a thought.  I don't know what business plan would work for this - does the State own them and sell the electricity to the power companies?  Would the power companies build it and lease an easement from the State?  Does it even make financial sense?  Considering all costs, could it be less expensive than coal or nuclear?  Maybe, maybe not.

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