Complete Society

Ideas and strategies for a sustainable world

Asphalt roadways, whole-system ideas, multiple benefits

As a practical solution in the short term, this work done on using the energy captured by road asphalt may not be feasible, but I really appreciate the thinking behind it as well as the whole-system ideas that emerged from the comments.

Tapping the hot asphalt jungle for energy

So, first, assume that in a complete society, you’ll still need roadways (at least for very long time).  Then, realize that roadways are automatically a huge amount of space where solar energy is falling.  Find an efficient way to harness that energy and you’ve taken a good step towards a society infrastructure that runs completely on renewable sources.

Then in this article’s comments you see follow on insights which make this idea more “complete”.  Such a system could alleviate the heat island effect in cities.  That helps reduce city energy usage and is more healthy for the residents.

One commenter suggests using the vibration of passing cars to generate electricity.  At first blush, may sound a bit out there, but in fact there’s already projects working on this.  If your asphalt heat system was thermoelectric, why not use the same electrical transmission system to carry piezoelectric energy from vibration?

Finally, there’s a discussion on de-icing of roadways.  Its suggested that water pipes could be capture the heat to then de-ice the asphalt.  But, what if instead, you used the electrical infrastructure in reverse? Design the system so that it could run in both directions.  When necessary, send electricity back to the roadway to heat up the asphalt.  Yes, this isn’t using renewable energy per se, but it could be a more efficient way of de-icing the roads.  The potential cost savings of de-icing this way could help justify the costs of the whole system in the first place.

So, to me, this is a good example of considering the whole picture, seeing multiple benefits to the system, and coming up with a story that’s a more attractive solution than the original premise.

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August 19, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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