Phew. What a couple of weeks. After Toronto, then a good friend came to visit, and then my sister and mom. It was so lovely to see them all, but it’ll also be so lovely to get back in my normal groove. Oh, but I did finish up the painting for my mom of my siblings and I. I still might tweak it over the next month, but essentially, here it is (in the last two stages of painting). I’m amazed at what a difference putting in the background did to the colors and feel. Fun! 🙂


Oh, and I must say, I’m REALLy impressed with the idea and vision of SOLAR FREAKIN’ ROADWAYS! I don’t know if this is the future, but I’m convinced it has potential to be. (here’s a link to their Indiegogo campaign)


05/26/14 Meeting No-Show

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  1. The image of a critter like this could be rendered in the LEDs (stretched out), over the next hilltop either way back down the road, so drivers would have SOME warning. Just kicked-in my pittance Friday. Smart roads are coming! (Maybe smarter than the drivers…)

  2. I just hope the SOLAR FREAKIN’ ROADWAYS don’t hate me. Everything that guy talks about hates me.

    Orion’s probably sleeping. Star’s probably sleeping, too. Whatever happened to Vagus stayed happened to Vagus.

  3. RE: the painting: Wow! I agree on how putting in a background, etc. changes the feel, etc. I was getting used to thinking of it as your “scratch painting” (see the comments for 04/28/14 — I’m too lazy to link to it) although part of me was thinking of it as your “Canticle for Liebowitz” work — where all the monks wasted all that blue ink trying to duplicate EXACTLY the look of blueprints.

    I think your mom is going to like it.

  4. There’s a little typo in the second bubble in panel 1. “What” instead of “that”.

    Holy smokes, that clip for Solar FREAKIN’ roadways is awesome! I really wish some community picks up on that and tries to convert their road and asphalt fields to see how well this holds up. This sounds too good to be true.

  5. “What’s good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA!” If a few major energy corporations are able to whet their beak, it might work. And by whet their beak, I mean, ‘give them all the profits’.

  6. I am sorry to be negative, but I feel compelled to say something about the solar roadways idea.

    The cost of the solar panels for the whole system would be $66.5 trillion (cost/m^2: [1], area of roads: [2]), 4 times the US GDP. This ignores the cost of glass, LEDs, heating elements, weight sensors, electronics, installation, foundations, maintenance, etc. In comparison the most expensive project in human history is the interstate highway system, which cost $469 billion [3].

    However the real issue is not cost but efficiency. The solar panels are 31% [2] less efficient due to not being tilted and 11% [2] less efficient due to the glass covering. I don’t have accurate figures for how thick the rubber residue left on roads after 20 years of usage (proposed minimum lifetime [2]) is, but if it blocks merely 50% of light, and shade/snow blocks 5%, and clouds 10%, then the total inefficiency is 74%. The US uses 4 PWh/y of electricity [4], which sourced by PV costs $532 billion/y [5], but adding a 74% inefficiency would raise that to $2 trillion/y, compared to the current market cost of $475 billion/y [4], an increase of $1.5 trillion/y for the cost of electricity in the US, or 10% of GDP.

    [1] They propose using the Sunpower E18 panels: wattage and area http://hvce.com/admin/content/uploads/Sunpower230.pdf, cost per watt http://www.solarpaneltalk.com/showthread.php?15056-SunPower-System-Question
    [2] http://www.solarroadways.com/numbers.shtml
    [3] http://www.businessinsider.com/most-expensive-megaprojects-2012-5?op=1
    [4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States#Consumption
    [5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#US_Department_of_Energy_estimates

  7. Perhaps, @Eric, in the end, it will be just that. A project that doesn’t work. But what’s happening now isn’t working (or won’t for long). But when it’s no longer just two people in their garage, when it’s properly funded, maybe it CAN be made to work. And they are up front that it needs development, that the cost is yet to be determined, and it can be made more efficient etc. Plus, the highways are falling apart, etc etc.

    Anyhow. I think you’re thoughts are good, but I support effort put into this because it might be something great.

  8. Meh. Nice idea, but if we’re going to spend a lot of money on a public project, I’d rather go back to the moon.

  9. @Christopher, I whole-heartedly support more research into photovoltaic/solar concentrator technology, and further projects like these, which are nearly cost-competitive with coal:
    However the solar roadways plan is not to improve on photovoltaic technology, but to take existing PV cells and stick them in roads under glass/dirt/rubber/clouds. A PV cell in a road cannot compete with the same PV cell in the Mojave. (Unless the road is in the Mojave on a south-facing slope and is cleaned after every use.)

    Anyhow, that’s all I wanted to say, thanks for listening. (And great comic, of course, I loved spacetrawler tremendously! Sorry to be off-topic.)

  10. i’d rather put wind turbines next to the roads than put solar panels in them.

    i don’t know what part of the world they want to put solar roads in, but where i live it snows seven months a year.

  11. 74% inefficiency is still 26% more efficient than asphalt.

  12. Eric, does that “cost competitive number” include the environmental and health damage? If not then you number is way too small.

    The Social Cost of Carbon

    EPA and other federal agencies use the social cost of carbon (SCC) to estimate the climate benefits of rulemakings. The SCC is an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, conventionally one metric ton, in a given year. This dollar figure also represents the value of damages avoided for a small emission reduction (i.e. the benefit of a CO2 reduction).

    The SCC is meant to be a comprehensive estimate of climate change damages and includes, but is not limited to, changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, and property damages from increased flood risk. However, given current modeling and data limitations, it does not include all important damages. As noted by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, it is “very likely that [SCC] underestimates” the damages. The models used to develop SCC estimates, known as integrated assessment models, do not currently include all of the important physical, ecological, and economic impacts of climate change recognized in the climate change literature because of a lack of precise information on the nature of damages and because the science incorporated into these models naturally lags behind the most recent research. Nonetheless, the SCC is a useful measure to assess the benefits of CO2 reductions. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/EPAactivities/economics/scc.html

    There is an idea to put a Solar Station and beaming installation on Luna.

    How to Turn the Moon Into a Giant Space Solar Power Hub
    by Ian O’Neill, Discovery News | December 03, 2013 12:18pm ET


    Luna Belt Solar Power Ring Station Artist’s Illustration
    [Pin It] This artist’s illustration shows the Luna Belt solar power ring station on the moon as envisioned by Japan’s Shimizu Corporation. A giant ring of solar arrays around the moon would collect solar power, which would then be beamed to Earth via microwave and laser transmitters.
    Credit: Shimizu Corporation
    View full size image

    When it comes to space and energy, we need to think big. That’s what one Japanese company is doing — and they’re reaching for the moon, literally.

    The best thing about the moon is that one lunar hemisphere is constantly bathed in sunlight (except for the occasional eclipse), so using solar arrays to generate power may not seem like such a stretch. Take China’s recently-launched Chang’e 3 Yutu rover for example, it’s solar powered. Also, Apollo astronauts set up solar-powered experiments on the lunar regolith. But how about wrapping the moon’s equator in a 250 mile wide band of solar panels and beaming the power generated back to Earth?

    ANALYSIS: Space Energy: Is Space Solar Power Feasible?

    That’s exactly what Shimizu Corporation is proposing and they reckon their concept could harness a steady stream of 13,000 terawatts of power. According to Business Insider, “the total installed electricity generation summer capacity in the United States was 1,050.9 gigawatts.” Such a vast energy resource could be transformative for our civilization. [Video: Beaming Solar Power from Space]

    As Obi-Wan might say: “That’s no moon. It’s a space (solar power) station.”

    “A shift from economical use of limited resources to the unlimited use of clean energy is the ultimate dream of all mankind,” says the company’s website. “The LUNA RING, our lunar solar power generation concept, translates this dream into reality through ingenious ideas coupled with advanced space technologies.”

    Indeed, advanced space technologies will be needed, not only to harvest solar energy and efficiently beam it back to Earth, but its very construction will require several leaps in robotic technology development. Also, this mother of all engineering tasks will need to see some significant changes in international space treaties before it sees light of day.

    NEWS: Japan Eyes Solar Power Station in Space

    Resembling a moon born from science fiction, the LUNA RING is just that, a ring around the moon. The ring, stretching 6,800 miles around the moon’s circumference, will be constructed by robots that will “perform various tasks on the lunar surface, including ground leveling and excavation of hard bottom strata.” The entire project will be overseen by a team of humans while the bulk of the robotic tasks can be teleoperated from Earth. [Moon Base Visions: How to Build a Lunar Colony (Photos)]
    Luna Belt Concept
    [Pin It] This graphic from Japan’s Shimizu Corporation shows how the company’s innovative Luna Belt concept could beam power from vast lunar solar arrays to Earth for consumption on the ground.
    Credit: Shimizu Corporation
    View full size image

    “It’s all very well building a huge array of solar panels around the moon, but how would the power be sent to Earth? As our atmosphere is virtually transparent to microwaves and lasers, Shimizu envisages solar energy being fed through microwave/laser transmitters located around the Earth-facing side of the moon. As the moon orbits the Earth and the Earth rotates, international receiving stations will feed electricity grids with plentiful lunar solar power as the moon rises to when it sets.”


    Considering we get one percent of the Suns total output we still get hit with enough to meet all of our energy needs———-for a year. Every day. People want fusion, they already have fusion. Just need to tap it and that frightens the big energy companies which is why they will stop at nothing to stop us from getting it to use.

  13. This is what I love about you all, even when you disagree, you keep it about the topic. PLUS you all care about the earth and are science nerds. <3

  14. @Night-Gaunt, when I said “cost-competitive”, I was not including externalities like pollution and climate change. (And anyone who doubts that pollution is a big one should look at north-east China in the winter.) Agreed with what you say about SCC. Coal is the cheapest fuel without these externalities, but the most expensive when you include them, which is why we desperately need a carbon-tax-and-dividend scheme so that the sticker price includes the societal cost.

  15. Solar roads will not happen any time soon. Why? POLITICS! No political capital to be had. People vote their wallets and if you throw out a cost of 60+ trillion dollars it will not fly. People are used to asphalt/concrete roads and the technology is relatively cheap by comparison.

    If you propose such a system some will want it because of the supposed environmental aspects. But most will not want it because of the cost. They will think that kind of money could 1) provide free healthcare for all Americans; 2) end hunger in the USA; 3) provide free education through the master’s degree; 4)end poverty in the USA; 5,6,7,8, etc) insert your favorite social welfare program. The same arguments which helped kill our world-beating space program. “Why ‘waste’ so much money that could be better used elsewhere?” They’ll say.

    Solar would be dead in the USA right now if not for handouts. Solar and wind, besides the obvious drawbacks of darkness and no wind or too much wind, are not cost competitive with hydrocarbons or nuclear power. The payback on roads in North Dakota will be much longer than in Nevada.

    Unless politicians see a clear way to use the program to get reelected, they’ll not support it. It would be cheaper to paint all rooftops white (or cover them in growing plants, but that is HEAVY and a strain on the structure), that do not have solar panels or hot water tubes on them.

    A hundredth of that cost in researching and building much more efficient solar panels, and also a far better means of storing electricity for when it’s dark and there is no wind, would be a better investment. Don’t drink the “flying car syndrome” kool-aid. Just because it is new and shiny, doesn’t mean it is practical at this point in time.

    Plus, you’d have heavy lobbying by the current oil, gas and coal giants against it, and they don’t have theoretical money, they have REAL money to spend on bribes, (excuse me, campaign contributions), and they have enormous amounts of it and they have it NOW. The senators and representatives of both parties in states which have hydrocarbon riches would vote against it.

    Until the electrical storage (battery) problem is solved, electric cars will only be a niche market. Don’t count on them. Along with better batteries, much more efficient and fast charging stations will be required for longer trips, which will require more power plants and more spending on infrastructure.

    It’s really all about politics and money – not science, my friends.

  16. By far the most ridiculous part of the solar highways concept is that they somehow decided that the best place to put their solar panels is the tiny percentage of our available land that gets repeatedly run over by motor vehicles.

  17. That IS the concept. And bathrooms keep getting soiled. And shuttle heat shields get burned. Why bother?

  18. On top (literally) of all the other issues with solar roads is the reason roads exist. The vehicles. Every where a car or truck is, there won’t be any sunlight hitting the PV cells. In heavy traffic there’ll be next to nil power generation.

    Solar parking lots would make no sense at all, except for maybe just on the drive ways amongst the parking spots. Much better would be to elevate the PV panels so they could be sun shades for the cars to keep them cooler in summer and keep rain and snow off them in other seasons.

    The LED lane markings don’t make much sense either. Even the most efficient ones would suck up a lot of the power to be visible during the day and at night external power would be required to run them.

    There could be some small scale uses for these panels but the cost and all the other issues make them far too impractical for widespread use as road paving.

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