Solar Roadways

So I just caught wind of these guys today thanks to Facebook:

2:15 is where he actually starts talking about the subject matter.

The idea is pretty straightforward: Replace asphault roads with solar panels encased in a thick protective shell made of glass.

But it gets really cool:
- Include heating elements so that the road can melt snow and ice
- Include LEDs so that lane lines and warning messages can be illuminated and easy to see.
- Include microprocessors to control LEDs and also for inter-panel communication -- so damaged panels can be reported and fixed
- Can be largely made from recycled garbage combined with organic materials.

If the entire road infrastructure of the US is replaced with these panels, it would theoretically generate 3x as much energy as the US is currently using.

It almost sounds too good to be true, but also so seems extremely down to earth and realistic. I'm really excited about this.

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closed account (L6b7X9L8)
If this is the future I think the human race is on the right track.

3x the amount of energy? How much does the US consume?

The heating element seems like an amazing idea, but would it cope easily with heavy snowfall?
We'd probably still need plows or street sweepers to clear off the bulk... but it would eliminate ice patches and packed snow on the roads.
closed account (L6b7X9L8)
So not only are you creating free energy but causing a less of a risk on the road... that's pretty neat.
Yeah. And it's made from mostly recycled garbage (like literally garbage -- old tires and other waste), so it'd be environmentally friendly to produce.
closed account (L6b7X9L8)
How do they turn rub- garbage into glass and such?
Beats me. =P
Seems to me that the wear on the material would make it opaque in short order.
I had some problems with this (Info: I can't watch that video atm to see exact points raised in it, but I read about this topic earlier today):
-What is the environmental and economic cost of transporting the materials, fabricating the product (on this scale) and installation?
-What is the lifetime of the product?
-How is the energy grid adapted to this kind of energy generation?
-How to store energy generated like this (they don't generate at night for example)?
-How this kind of energy generation reacts to peak demands?

I haven't seen good answers to any of these questions.

@AbstractAnon has a brilliant point as well.
I imagine storing the energy could be as simple as each panel has a moderate size battery, one that trickle charges during the day and discharges at night when being used by lighting.

However the rubber from tires making the glass black is a problem, and I also see another problem which will most likely make this plan never happen...
The government has to decide whether to spend millions/billions placing in these potentially drastic energy and money saving devices but also must decide if the attraction for criminals is low enough to justify the expenditure. As well as the other factors such as cost of replacing road and replacing/cleaning panels when they're wearing out against the cost of energy savings.
Yeah the details of this are lacking. The youtube videos I can find only talk about general capabilities and whatnot, they do not get into specifics.
I imagine storing the energy could be as simple as each panel has a moderate size battery, one that trickle charges during the day and discharges at night when being used by lighting

Some of the worries for me with this system are peak energy spikes (currently dealt with by fossil fuel plants and water-storage) and increased winter demand (mainly due to heating), which is of course, when solar panels are least effective.

Also, national grids are not as simple as just plug in a million tiny batteries to make a power plant.

Scratches on protective surface will decrease amount of sunlight and drastically decrease perfomance.

You should check it regulary and you have panels stretched thousand of miles instead of being compactly placed on a power plant field: service cost will increase by order of magnitude.

Road workers cannot handle even normal road maintenance properly — and we want to replace it with complex system with built-in power line instead.
@ Mats: The US energy grid at least, is adapted fine to this. When you put solar panels on your house you can sell the excess power you generate back to the grid. This comes in the form of a monetary credit to your account which you use up during winter or thunder storms when your panels aren't as effective. This is what would happen with these roads since storing energy you generate in April to melt snow you won't see until September is just silly*. You did ask the correct question though, what is the durability of this technology.

*: This will only ever be effective on a small scale so I'm assuming the power grid can up their output enough to heat the roads when needed. You wouldn't heat the roads 24/7 of course, only during the morning and afternoon rush-hours. This would cause "Black Ice" to form on the roads though so you would still need to salt them, but hopefully not as much.
@Computergeek01 - The electricity grid is currently designed in a way that allows it to rapidly respond to changing demand (in all first world nations). This is done mainly through fossil fuel power plants, that can react quickly (<30 mins) to changing to demand. You would have to adapt the grid to remove these plants (presumably what these roads are designed to replace, otherwise wtf) and replace them with some kind of massive energy storage, that can be released on short notice. If not using fossil fuels, this is normally done with basically pumping water up a hill, but the number of sites on which this is viable is limited. Then there is the enormous cost of adapting the grid to this and building all that infrastructure.
Although all these arguments as you say, are probably moot (although still very severe in problems caused) if the tech itself is unsuitable. However, such general considerations need to be taken into account with any replacement of a mainly fossil fuel based electricity grid.
The "battery" point was just because that at the current moment electricity is made in AC and it's impossible (as for as we can figure out) to store AC power which is why the power grid must work and react on demand. But I believe solar panels produce DC (unless I'm having a really stupid moment) which would make it ideal for storing energy for powering its own little systems... And I didn't mean storing energy for months on end, I meant like a daily charge cycle.

But still the major problems are most definitely not how it integrates with power grid because that's easy peasy compared to the problems of installation, maintenance, and potential criminality. I hate to keep bringing it up but I think it's almost guaranteed nearly all the panels are going to go missing. There are plenty of criminals that dig up the copper cables and piping under the cities for crying out loud (and yes this has happened quite a few times)
You can sort of store AC, you just convert it into DC. This is of course incredibly inefficient since you lose a solid chunk of that energy when converting it to DC and then another portion when moving it back to AC in order for you to use it.

In fact this is something that more data centers are doing. In the US at least the cost of electricity is more expensive during the day when most of the businesses are open and active. What data centers do is charge what is essentially a wall of batteries during the night time hours so that they can use that energy during the peak hours when most of their clients are active and the electricity would cost much more.

Theft is a legitimate concern but I don't know what the market on second hand solar panels is. Copper gets stolen because it's easy to move and always in demand. That and it gets melted down when it's processed so a few hours after being fenced it isn't even in the same recognizable shape so it's nearly impossible for the fence to get caught with the stolen goods. This is the same thing with silver and gold. This is why these metals still get something where as precious stones are nearly worthless since they need to be cut, which I guess isn't an easy task, and they're marked.
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