Imagine a highway that doubles as a power plant.
That's the vision of architect Måns Tham of Sweden whose innovative design would combine freeways with solar technology. He notes that the wasted space above highways could be put to use.
Due to the low areal energy generation of solar cells, allocation of land use is a central issue for any solar proposal.
The Los Angeles Solar Program focus on roofs on private and public buildings within the city and a gigantic solar plant in the Mohave desert. With Los Angeles County having 800 km of freeways – public land with existing points of access for maintenance – why not use some of them for the location of a large scale solar installation?
Tham says that the Santa Monica Freeway alone could produce 150 gigawatt hours per year, enough to power Venice, and that the electricity "will be sucked up by households and businesses locally in the grid with minimal transmission costs.
Under main road overpasses electric cars can be filled at the “Power Place” charging stations! The locally produced electricity will be sucked up by households and businesses locally in the grid with minimal transmission costs.
But what about the exhaust? Tham has a plan for this as well.
The CO2 rich air on the road is brought through pipes into linear covered algae ponds along the freeway. This will bring green jobs, such as farming, harvesting and processing biofuels, to the neighborhoods that today are the most disadvantaged by their proximity to the freeway
I'm sure you can find some minor points that might need to tweaked, like sound problems and panel-sunlight orientation, but given the costs of other power-generating plants (both in terms of the economy and the environment) this seems quite reasonable. Solar panels are not exactly cheap, of course, but it is estimated that the project could pay for itself in about eight years.
Sounds like a great idea. However, I somehow doubt we will ever see it built in the United States. We can't even get a high speed train up and running.