Originally posted by twhitehead
But you are painting it as a net power gain when it is really a power loss. Its like trying to market water desalination plants by saying that when they are not running we can use the electricity required for something else.
The fact is that the heaters in the roads require both construction costs and electricity when in operation. The do not at any poin he biggest sticking points of using desert solar.
Nevertheless it might be cost effective.[/b]
It might be cost effective to put up towers in the desert, we may have no other choice. Solar cells still will produce electricity buried under snow, but what they can do is to concentrate the power needed say, 100 meters at a time, where you have say 1000 meters of roadway solar.
When one stretch becomes ice free, the next stretch can be cleared and so forth. If you are in the snow belt you would automatically be in the same place that has high voltage towers so a simple hookup to power lines can be done to get power to the grid when there is no ice on the roads.
The situation with snow and ice is the intermittent nature of these storms. Days and days go by with no snow so on those days the power from roadway solar can be diverted to the grid. With many kilometers available, using these numbers: 15 meter wide roadway, 1000 meters long, 1300 watts/ meter squared hits the earth, so times 0.1, If you use 25 % efficient cells, u could get about 1/10th of the available sun so that works out to about 2 megawatts per kilometer.
The biggest obstacle I see is storing the energy, which would probably be solved by hooking the power into the grid, thereby using the grid as a giant battery, and the grid actually giving the intermittent energy needed when there is ice to clear off the road.
That way, if power is cut to say, 20 percent of what it could get if the snow was gone, the grid makes up the difference and when the roadway is cleared of ice and snow, each section would go back to whatever its maximum power out would be unobstructed.
Since there is not much snow in the desert (not totally true, there is on occasion), such roadways would be more useful in the north and north central US. So if you can get 2 megawatts per kilometer, you get 2 gigawatts per 1000 kilometers, or 2 gigawatts per 625 miles.
10,000 km of roadway could produce 20 gigawatts. There is a LOT more roadway than that in the US. Highway 95 going north and south on the East coast is about 4000 kilometers long by itself, going from Florida to Maine.
It is also a lot more than 15 meters wide. That road alone could develop perhaps 10 gigawatts or more. If it were paved with solar the whole length there would be hundreds of kilometers of roadway not covered with ice or snow, I would say no more than 20 percent of 95 would be covered by ice or snow at any one time. Plus in the spring, summer and fall, no snow at all so it would generate gigawatts for 8 hours a day which can be fed right into the grid.
The cost for that road would be about 7.5 billion dollars US. I would imagine there would have to be at least another billion for control electronics to be able to put power to and from the grid along the roadway, so it could be maybe 10 billion for the whole project.
Seems cheaper than fission plants, each one of those puppies only puts out about one gigawatt, and they cost billions to build.