Cities have been trying to find a solution to the need for energy saving. In an area of Detroit, two-thirds of streetlights were literally yanked and hauled away, leaving residents in the dark, according to a New York Times article. Cities have also been turning off the lights on lesser used roads and footpaths. Many citizens have to adjust their usual activities around this “lights-out” schedule. No longer can children play outside in the late evening. This also affects the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Motorists claim that they are not able to see others until their vehicles are right upon them. This clearly defines the urgency of the matter.
Technological solutions are being developed to make roadway lighting cheaper and energy efficient. Smarter roadways can help in saving lives and money. Different intelligent surfaces have been developed to improve conditions for drivers and pedestrians. The beauty of these solutions is that they are using renewable sources of energy for powering themselves.
Footpaths Powered By Solar Energy
Currently, two different technologies are being developed to provide lighting for footpaths. The technology for each is different. They are both promising in that they rely on natural sources to generate power. They could be potential supplements or even alternatives to traditional lighting.
The Solar Walk, developed by George Washington University, is the first solar powered sidewalk in the world. It consists of solar panels that are an extension of one of the university’s public walkways. It consists of 27 solar panels with a total output of 400 watts. These tiles light up and can be walked upon safely, as they are slip resistant. The tiles use photovoltaic technology to create electricity from sunlight. The electricity is used for powering 450 LED lights. At the edge of a setup is a solar trellis that also helps power one of the halls of the campus. The walkway stretches 100 square feet.
Another technology called ‘Starpath’ is being used to provide lighting for pathways. Existing pathways can be coated with a special substance that glows in the dark. The minerals in the material can absorb UV light from the sun during the day and emit it back at night as a soft glow. The luminosity of the material automatically adjusts to atmospheric light levels. The material can be applied on existing paths. As it is sealed with a special material that is water resistant; the path will not be slippery even in icy or snowy conditions.
Roadways Powered by Solar Energy
Prototypes are being developed to convert roads into something more than just a surface. The technology in development by Solar Roadways utilizes roads that have been paved with solar panels. These solar panels can then be used to provide power. This technology can be further developed to create smarter highways that are modified with solar panels can that display data and can be fitted with LEDs. These “smart panels” can then be used for displaying signs, diversions, warnings, speed limits or even pedestrian crossings. They could even be used to control traffic. Implementation of heating technologies to eliminate snow and water from accumulating on roads is also an issue that is in the works. Being able to use the energy from the solar panels to charge electric cars would solve one of the major setbacks plaguing these vehicles. If the technology becomes viable, it will revolutionize the world by turning huge swatches of roads into sources of electrical power.