Imagine a drone navigating to your doorstep, delivering a microwave oven you recently ordered online—simple.
Today’s technology has enabled such a transaction to occur fairly seamlessly, yet innovation hasn’t stopped there.
These same drones are now capable of operating via solar power, commanded by a distant satellite in space harnessing solar rays, all the while dropping off a solar-powered kitchen appliance to your home—an end-to-end exchange that’s clean, sustainable and convenient.
It’s no secret that solar energy has made considerable headway in becoming a cost-competitive, cleaner alternative to traditional fossil fuels, powering some of the world’s largest and most vital infrastructure.
In fact, a new report from international business consulting firm Lloyd’s Register projects this trend to continue to an ever greater degree, with further adoption of solar cell technology to have an outsized impact on power grids across the globe with each passing year.
Such ubiquity is already evident in the number of workers employed in the solar sector (360,000 by 2021) as well as the declining cost of solar installations (60 percent in the last decade), according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
As more solar systems are brought online, the number of people directly exposed to and impacted by solar on an everyday basis will similarly rise.
But beyond what many people believe to be main offerings of the clean energy revolution—solar-powered homes, cars and storage batteries—there are a host of additional solar applications that have a practical use.
Roads and Sidewalks
The idea of lining transportation networks with solar panels is not a new one—many nations have already made the foray into large-scale ground-mount solar installations with the goal of generating energy to feed back into the grid.
One company, Solar Roadways, has manufactured solar panels that can be driven upon, replacing asphalt or concrete.
The panels also contain LED lights for illumination, voiding the need for painted roadways, and they organically melt ice and provide better traction for drivers.
A Missouri rest stop is already piloting the panels through the state’s Department of Transportation’s Road To Tomorrow initiative, which will be used on its sidewalks as well.
The idea is that governments and private businesses can put their infrastructure to work for them.
Roads can now be monetized while meeting energy demands and slashing traditional maintenance costs.
The same rule applies for residential and commercial streets and sidewalks.
Installing solar panels in nearby open fields is an option, yes, but designing the ground itself to be a conduit for energy generation is a new frontier altogether—one that is still in its testing phase.