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Demo a Solar Road?

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 The Solar Road Grand Opening

Having first heard about the Jefferson Square Solar Roads “demo project’ last spring I attended the “grand opening” on the 30th hoping to see something positive. To everyone’s shock the tent opening revealed just a hole in the ground and not single panel in sight. The event should have been canceled well in advance and not lead us on like that. Their excuse was they didn’t even start final assembly of the panels until the day before and not having any idea how long it would take! It was the first time they made that many panels. They said please come back tomorrow at 1:00 and it will be done and operational for sure. I didn’t believe a word of it and had no plans to go back.

A friend and I were driving around town at 1:00 pm the next day so we decided to see if anything had changed. “Grand Opening 2” was a much bigger fiasco than the original one. The panels where in place but not working. They said they were engineering how to install the panels as they were putting them in. It was never done before. It was pure guess work on their part. They guessed wrong on how much sand to use under the panels and did not use enough or tamp the sand down. All of the panels had to be removed! Now they finally stated the truth and said “we have no idea when this will be completed”! This is incompetence to the max and a very shocking way to introduce a new company to he public. Hopefully no public funds where used for this project.

This project is not a road, or even a parking area so it does not demo anything having to do with Solar Roads. I see it as merely as a very expensive, exotic, sandbox, play area for the kids. By profession I am a CAD Mechanical Designer. I don’t think the panels are going to melt snow during the day and will be impossible at night. Because the panels have bumps on top snow plows will not be able to clean the road down to the surface like normal. A layer of ice will form on the panels at least the thickness of the bumps. And if the snow plow blades hit the bumps they will shatter the panels. I see many more problems than these.

The area of a one mile section of a typical 2 lane road is about 160,00 square feet. Each panel is about 5 square feet so it would require 32,000 panels for each mile of road. They had 6 full months to make just 30 panels on time and could not do that. Having seen this in person I don’t see a solar road ever being made.

A better idea would be to have cheaper conventional solar panels on poles along side the roads that face the sun.I’m not sure how good that would look but we sure need to stop using oil and nuclear power ASAP.

Today on 10-3-16 I stopped by the “demo site” to see if it was done. Its “completed” but its one horrific mess. Some panels are already loose, sinking and move when you stand on them. There are short metal strips covering all the seams between panels. They are all held down by 2 small screws. Few of these metal strips are flush with the panels. There are gaps all over the place. The metal strips are mitered on the ends to fit in a hexagon pattern. Very few of them if any are fitted correctly on the ends where they are supposed to neatly fit against the other strips. Some have big gaps between the ends and others are on top of each other. It truly looks like “we just made this in our garage as fast as we could with no care for quality or professionalism. It this was a road or even just a parking area those metal strips would be ripped out and bent to pieces in very quick order. One pass of a snow plow would take them all out. There are holes going down to the sand at every panel corner around the perimeter. There are more larger holes at corners in the installation. My prediction is that snow and ice will destroy this “demo by the end of winter. Ice will get under both the panels and the metal strips and rip the whole thing apart. Who ever paid for this is sure getting ripped off.

The City of Sandpoint now has to choose between these 2 options:

  1. Do we let this mess stay as an embarrassment to the city. Or
  2. Altruistically do we wait out the winter, let it be destroyed by ice for all to see, and then no body else will be tempted to waste their money on this garbage?

If this company is going call this “demo a solar road” then my reply is “no, just a big solar joke”


Alan Mikoleit

Sandpoint, ID